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Title: Kitty's Conquest
Author: King, Charles, 1844-1933
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Kitty's Conquest" ***

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                            KITTY'S CONQUEST.

                         BY CHARLES KING, U.S.A.,

                    AUTHOR OF "THE COLONEL'S DAUGHTER."


    PHILADELPHIA:
    J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY.
    1890.

    Copyright. 1884, by J. B. LIPPINCOTT & CO.



PREFACE.


The incidents of this little story occurred some twelve years ago, and
it was then that the story was mainly written.

If it meet with half the kindness bestowed upon his later work it will
more than fulfil the hopes of

     THE AUTHOR.

February, 1884.



KITTY'S CONQUEST.



CHAPTER I.


It was just after Christmas, and discontentedly enough I had left my
cosy surroundings in New Orleans, to take a business-trip through the
counties on the border-line between Tennessee and northern Mississippi
and Alabama. One sunny afternoon I found myself on the "freight and
passenger" of what was termed "The Great Southern Mail Route." We had
been trundling slowly, sleepily along ever since the conductor's "all
aboard!" after dinner; had met the Mobile Express at Corinth when the
shadows were already lengthening upon the ruddy, barren-looking
landscape, and now, with Iuka just before us, and the warning whistle of
the engine shrieking in our ears with a discordant pertinacity attained
only on our Southern railroads, I took a last glance at the sun just
disappearing behind the distant forest in our wake, drew the last
breath of life, from my cigar, and then, taking advantage of the halt at
the station, strolled back from the dinginess of the smoking-car to more
comfortable quarters in the rear.

There were only three passenger-cars on the train, and, judging from the
scarcity of occupants, one would have been enough. Elbowing my way
through the gaping, lazy swarms of unsavory black humanity on the
platform, and the equally repulsive-looking knots of "poor white trash,"
the invariable features of every country stopping-place south of Mason
and Dixon, I reached the last car, and entering, chose one of a dozen
empty seats, and took a listless look at my fellow-passengers,--six in
all,--and of them, two only worth a second glance.

One, a young, perhaps very young, lady, so girlish, _petite_, and pretty
she looked even after the long day's ride in a sooty car. Her seat was
some little distance from the one into which I had dropped, but that was
because the other party to be depicted was installed within two of her,
and, with that indefinable sense of repulsion which induces all
travellers, strangers to one another, to get as far apart as possible on
entering a car, I had put four seats 'twixt him and me,--and afterwards
wished I hadn't.

It _was_ rude to turn and stare at a young girl,--travelling alone, too,
as she appeared to be. I did it involuntarily the first time, and found
myself repeating the performance again and again, simply because I
couldn't help it,--she looked prettier and prettier every time.

A fair, oval, tiny face; a somewhat supercilious nose, and
not-the-least-so mouth; a mouth, on the contrary, that even though its
pretty lips were closed, gave one the intangible yet positive assurance
of white and regular teeth; eyes whose color I could not see because
their drooping lids were fringed with heavy curving lashes, but which
subsequently turned out to be a soft, dark gray; and hair!--hair that
made one instinctively gasp with admiration, and exclaim (mentally), "If
it's _only_ real!"--hair that rose in heavy golden masses above and
around the diminutive ears, almost hiding them from view, and fell in
braids (not braids either, because it _wasn't_ braided) and rolls--only
that sounds breakfasty--and masses again,--it must do for both,--heavy
golden masses and rolls and waves and straggling offshoots and
disorderly delightfulness all down the little lady's neck, and, landing
in a lump on the back of the seat, seemed to come surging up to the top
again, ready for another tumble.

It looked as though it hadn't been "fixed" since the day before, and yet
as though it would be a shame to touch it; and was surmounted, "sat
upon," one might say, by the jauntiest of little travelling hats of some
dark material (don't expect a bachelor, and an elderly one at that, to
be explicit on such a point), this in turn being topped by the pertest
little mite of a feather sticking bolt upright from a labyrinth of
beads, bows, and buckles at the side.

More of this divinity was not to be viewed from my post of observation,
as all below the fragile white throat with its dainty collar and the
handsome fur "boa," thrown loosely back on account of the warmth of the
car, was undergoing complete occultation by the seats in front; yet
enough was visible to impress one with a longing to become acquainted
with the diminutive entirety, and to convey an idea of cultivation and
refinement somewhat unexpected on that particular train, and in that
utterly unlovely section of the country.

Naturally I wondered who she was; where she was going; how it happened
that she, so young, so innocent, so be-petted and be-spoilt in
appearance, should be journeying alone through the thinly settled
counties of upper Mississippi. Had she been a "through" passenger, she
would have taken the express, not this grimy, stop-at-every-shanty,
slow-going old train on which we were creeping eastward.

In fact, the more I peeped, the more I marvelled; and I found myself
almost unconsciously inaugurating a detective movement with a view to
ascertaining her identity.

All this time mademoiselle was apparently serenely unconscious of my
scrutiny and deeply absorbed in some object--a book, probably--in her
lap. A stylish Russia-leather satchel was hanging among the hooks above
her head,--evidently her property,--and those probably, too, were her
initials in monogram, stamped in gilt upon the flap, too far off for my
fading eyes to distinguish, yet tantalizingly near.

Now I'm a lawyer, and as such claim an indisputable right to exercise
the otherwise feminine prerogative of yielding to curiosity. It's our
business to be curious; not with the sordid views and mercenary intents
of Templeton Jitt; but rather as Dickens's "Bar" was curious,--affably,
apologetically, professionally curious. In fact, as "Bar" himself said,
"we lawyers _are_ curious," and take the same lively interest in the
affairs of our fellow-men (and women) as maiden aunts are popularly
believed to exercise in the case of a pretty niece with a dozen beaux,
or a mother-in-law in the daily occupations of the happy husband of her
eldest daughter. Why need I apologize further? I left my seat;
zig-zagged down the aisle; took a drink of water which I didn't want,
and, returning, the long look at the monogram which I _did_.

There they were, two gracefully intertwining letters; a "C" and a "K."
Now was it C. K. or K. C.? If C. K., what did it stand for?

I thought of all manner of names as I regained my seat; some pretty,
some tragic, some commonplace, none satisfactory. Then I concluded to
begin over; put the cart before the horse, and try K. C.

Now, it's ridiculous enough to confess to it, but Ku-Klux was the first
thing I thought of; K. C. didn't stand for it at all, but Ku-Klux
_would_ force itself upon my imagination. Well, everything _was_ Ku-Klux
just then. Congress was full of them; so was the South;--Ku-Klux had
brought me up there; in fact I had spent most of the afternoon in
planning an elaborate line of defence for a poor devil whom I knew to be
innocent, however blood-guilty might have been his associates. Ku-Klux
had brought that lounging young cavalryman (the other victim reserved
for description), who--confound him--had been the cause of my taking a
metaphorical back seat and an actual front one on entering the car; but
Ku-Klux couldn't have brought _her_ there; and after all, what business
had I bothering my tired brains over this young beauty? I was nothing to
her, why should she be such a torment to me?

In twenty minutes we would be due at Sandbrook, and there I was to leave
the train and jog across the country to the plantation of Judge Summers,
an old friend of my father's and of mine, who had written me to visit
him on my trip, that we might consult together over some intricate
cases that of late had been occupying his attention in that vicinity. In
fact, I was too elderly to devote so much thought and speculation to a
damsel still in her teens, so I resolutely turned eyes and tried to turn
thoughts to something else.

The lamps were being lighted, and the glare from the one overhead fell
full upon my other victim, the cavalryman. I knew him to be such from
the crossed sabres in gold upon his jaunty forage cap, and the heavy
army cloak which was muffled cavalier-like over his shoulders,
displaying to vivid advantage its gorgeous lining of canary color, yet
completely concealing any interior garments his knightship might be
pleased to wear.

Something in my contemplation of this young warrior amused me to that
extent that I wondered he had escaped more than a casual glance before.
Lolling back in his seat, with a huge pair of top boots spread out upon
the cushion in front, he had the air, as the French say, of thorough
self-appreciation and superiority; he was gazing dreamily up at the lamp
overhead and whistling softly to himself, with what struck me forcibly
as an affectation of utter nonchalance; what struck me still more
forcibly was that he did not once look at the young beauty so close
behind him; on the contrary, there was an evident attempt on his part
to appear sublimely indifferent to her presence.

Now that's very unusual in a young man under the circumstances, isn't
it? I had an idea that these Charles O'Malleys were heart-smashers; but
this conduct hardly tallied with any of my preconceived notions on the
subject of heart-smashing, and greatly did I marvel and conjecture as to
the cause of this extraordinary divergence from the manners and customs
of young men,--soldiers in particular, when, of a sudden, Mars arose,
threw off his outer vestment, emerged as it were from a golden glory of
yellow shelter-tent; discovered a form tall, slender, graceful, and
erect, the whole clad in a natty shell-jacket and riding-breeches;
stalked up to the stove in the front of the car; produced, filled, and
lighted a smoke-begrimed little meerschaum; opened the door with a snap;
let himself out with a bang; and disappeared into outer darkness.

Looking quickly around, I saw that the fair face of C. K. or K. C. was
uplifted; furthermore, that there was an evident upward tendency on the
part of the aforementioned supercilious nose, entirely out of proportion
with the harmonious and combined movement of the other features;
furthermore, that the general effect was that of maidenly displeasure;
and, lastly, that the evident object of such divine wrath was, beyond
all peradventure, the vanished knight of the sabre.

"Now, my lad," thought I, "what have you done to put your foot in it?"

Just then the door reopened, and in came, not Mars, but the conductor;
and that functionary, proceeding direct to where she sat, thus addressed
the pretty object of my late cogitations (I didn't listen, but I heard):

"It'll be all right, miss. I telegraphed the judge from Iuka, and reckon
he'll be over with the carriage to meet you; but if he nor none of the
folks ain't there, I'll see that you're looked after all right. Old Jake
Biggs'll be there, most like, and then you're sure of getting over to
the judge's to-night anyhow."

Here I pricked up my ears. Beauty smilingly expressed her gratitude,
and, in smiling, corroborated my theory about the teeth to the most
satisfactory extent.

"The colonel," continued the conductor, who would evidently have been
glad of any excuse to talk with her for hours, "the colonel, him and Mr.
Peyton, went over to Holly Springs three days ago; but the smash-up on
the Mississippi Central must have been the cause of their not getting to
the junction in time to meet you. That's why I brought you along on this
train; 'twasn't no use to wait for them there."

"Halloo!" thought I at this juncture, "here's my chance; he means Judge
Summers by 'the judge's,' and 'the colonel' is Harrod Summers, of
course, and Ned Peyton, that young reprobate who has been playing fast
and loose among the marshals and sheriffs, is the Mr. Peyton he speaks
of; and this must be some friend or relative of Miss Pauline's going to
visit her. The gentlemen have been sent to meet her, and have been
delayed by that accident. I'm in luck;" so up I jumped, elbowed the
obliging conductor to one side; raised my hat, and introduced
myself,--"Mr. Brandon, of New Orleans, an old friend of Judge Summers,
on my way to visit him; delighted to be of any service; pray accept my
escort," etc., etc.--all somewhat incoherent, but apparently
satisfactory. Mademoiselle graciously acknowledged my offer; smilingly
accepted my services; gave me a seat by her side; and we were soon
busied in a pleasant chat about "Pauline," her cousin, and "Harrod," her
other cousin and great admiration. Soon I learned that it was K. C.,
that K. C. was Kitty Carrington; that Kitty Carrington was Judge
Summers's niece, and that Judge Summers's niece was going to visit Judge
Summers's niece's uncle; that they had all spent the months of September
and October together in the north when she first returned from abroad;
that she had been visiting "Aunt Mary" in Louisville ever since, and
that "Aunt Mary" had been with her abroad for ever so long, and was just
as good and sweet as she could be. In fact, I was fast learning all my
charming little companion's family history, and beginning to feel
tolerably well acquainted with and immensely proud of her, when the door
opened with a snap, closed with a bang, and, issuing from outer
darkness, re-entered Mars.

Now, when Mars re-entered, he did so pretty much as I have seen his
brother button-wearers march into their company quarters on inspection
morning, with an air of determined ferocity and unsparing criticism; but
when Mars caught sight of me, snugly ensconced beside the only belle on
the train, the air suddenly gave place to an expression of astonishment.
He dropped a gauntlet; picked it up; turned red; and then, with sudden
resumption of lordly indifference, plumped himself down into his seat in
as successful an attempt at expressing "Who cares?" without saying it,
as I ever beheld.

Chancing to look at Miss Kitty, I immediately discovered that a little
cloud had settled upon her fair brow, and detected the nose on another
rise, so said I,--

"What's the matter? Our martial friend seems to have fallen under the
ban of your displeasure," and then was compelled to smile at the
vindictiveness of the reply:

"_He!_ he has indeed! Why, he had the impertinence to speak to me before
you came in; asked me if I was not the Miss Carrington expected at
Judge Summers's; actually offered to escort me there, as the colonel had
failed to meet me!"

"Indeed! Then I suppose I, too, am horribly at fault," said I, laughing,
"for I've done pretty much the same thing?"

"Nonsense!" said Miss Kit. "Can't you understand? He's a Yankee,--a
Yankee officer! You don't suppose I'd allow myself, a Southern girl
whose home was burnt by Yankees and whose only brother fought all
through the war against them,--you don't suppose I'd allow myself to
accept any civility from a Yankee, do you?" and the bright eyes shot a
vengeful glance at the dawdling form in front, and a terrific pout
straightway settled upon her lips.

Amused, yet unwilling to offend, I merely smiled and said that it had
not occurred to me; but immediately asked her how long before my
entrance this had happened.

"Oh, about half an hour; he never made more than one attempt."

"What answer did you give him?"

"Answer!--why! I couldn't say much of anything, you know, but merely
told him I wouldn't trouble him, and said it in such a way that he knew
well enough what was meant. He took the hint quickly enough, and turned
red as fire, and said very solemnly, 'I ask your pardon,' put on his cap
and marched back to his seat." Here came a pretty little imitation of
Mars raising his chin and squaring his shoulders as he walked off.

I smiled again, and then began to think it all over. Mars was a total
stranger to me. I had never seen him before in my life, and, so long as
we remained on an equal footing as strangers to the fair K. C., I had
been disposed to indulge in a little of the usual jealousy of "military
interference," and, from my exalted stand-point as a man of the world
and at least ten years his senior in age, to look upon him as a boy with
no other attractions than his buttons and a good figure; but Beauty's
answer set me to thinking. I was a Yankee, too, only she didn't know it;
if she had, perhaps Mars would have stood the better chance of the two.
I, too, had borne arms against the Sunny South (as a valiant militia-man
when the first call came in '61), and had only escaped wearing the
uniform she detested from the fact that our regimental rig was gray, and
my talents had never conspired to raise me above the rank of
lance-corporal. I, too, had participated in the desecration of the
"sacred soil" (digging in the hot sun at the first earthworks we threw
up across the Long Bridge); in fact, if she only knew it, there was
probably more reason, more real cause, for resentment against me, than
against the handsome, huffy stripling two seats in front.

He was a "Yank," of course; but judging from the smooth, ruddy cheek,
and the downiest of downy moustaches fringing his upper lip, had but
just cut loose from the apron-strings of his maternal West Point. Why!
he must have been at school when we of the old Seventh tramped down
Broadway that April afternoon to the music of "Sky-rockets," half
drowned in stentorian cheers. In fact, I began, in the few seconds it
took me to consider this, to look upon Mars as rather an ill-used
individual. Very probably he was stationed somewhere in the vicinity,
for loud appeals had been made for regular cavalry ever since the year
previous, when the Ku-Klux began their devilment in the neighborhood.
Very probably he knew Judge Summers; visited at his plantation; had
heard of Miss Kitty's coming, and was disposed to show her attention.
Meeting her on the train alone and unescorted, he had done nothing more
than was right in offering his services. He had simply acted as a
gentleman, and been rebuffed. Ah, Miss Kitty, you must, indeed, be very
young, thought I, and so asked,--

"Have you been long in the South since the war, Miss Carrington?"

"I? Oh, no! We lived in Kentucky before the war, and when it broke out
mother took me abroad. I was a little bit of a girl then, and was put at
school in Paris, but mother died very soon afterwards, and then auntie
took charge of me. Why, I only left school last June!"

Poor little Kit! her father had died when she was a mere baby; her
mother before the child had reached her tenth year; their beautiful old
home in Kentucky had been sacked and burned during the war; and George,
her only brother, after fighting for his "Lost Cause" until the last
shot was fired at Appomattox, had gone abroad, married, and settled
there. Much of the large fortune of their father still remained; and
little Kit, now entering upon her eighteenth year, was the ward of Judge
Summers, her mother's brother, and quite an heiress.

All this I learned, partly at the time, principally afterwards from the
judge himself; but meantime there was the rebellious little fairy at my
side with all the hatred and prejudice of ten years ago, little dreaming
how matters had changed since the surrender of her beloved Lee, or
imagining the quantity of oil that had been poured forth upon the
troubled waters.



CHAPTER II.


The "Twenty minutes to Sandbrook" had become involved in difficulty.
Interested in my chat with Kitty, I had failed to notice that we were
stopping even longer than usual at some mysterious locality where there
was even less of any apparent reason for stopping at all. All without
was darkness. I pushed open the window, poked out my head, and took a
survey. All was silence save the hissing of the engine way ahead, and
one or two voices in excited conversation somewhere near the baggage-car
and by the fence at the roadside. Two lights, lanterns apparently, were
flitting rapidly about. I wondered at the delay, but could assign no
cause in reply to the natural question Miss Kit asked as I drew in my
head.

Mars opened his window as I closed mine, looked out a moment, then got
up, gave himself a stretch, and stalked out; this time without slamming
the door; a bang would have been too demonstrative in that oppressive
silence. In one minute he came back with a quick, nervous step, picked
up a belt and holster he had left at his seat, and, without a glance at
us, turned sharply back to the door again. As he disappeared, I saw his
hand working at the butt of the revolver swung at his hip. Something was
wrong. I knew that the Ku-Klux had been up to mischief in that vicinity,
and the thought flashed upon me that they were again at work. Looking
around, I saw that three of our four fellow-passengers had disappeared.
They were ill-favored specimens, for I remembered noticing them just
before we stopped, and remarked that they were talking earnestly and in
low tones together at the rear end of the car. The other passenger was
an old lady, spectacled and rheumatic. Without communicating my
suspicions to my little charge, I excused myself; stepped quietly out;
swung off the car, and stumbled up the track toward the lights.

A group of six or eight men was gathered at the baggage-car. About the
same number were searching along the fence, all talking excitedly. I
hailed a brakeman and asked what was the matter.

"Ku-Klux, sir! Tried to rob the express! There was two of them in mask
jumped in with their pistols and belted the agent over the head and laid
him out; but afore they could get into the safe, the baggage-master, Jim
Dalton, came in, and he yelled and went for 'em. We was running slow up
grade, and they jumped off; Jim and the conductor after them; that's
why we stopped and backed down."

"Which way did they go?" I asked.

"Took right into the bush, I reckon. That lieutenant and another feller
has gone in through here, and Bill here says he seen three other fellers
light out from the back car,--the one you was in, sir. That's enough to
catch them if they're on the trail."

"Catch them!" I exclaimed. "Those three men in our car were of the same
gang, if anything, and that makes five to our four."

"Yes, by G--d!" said another of the party, a sturdy-looking planter;
"and what's more, I believe they've got a ranch in hereabouts and belong
to Hank Smith's gang. There ain't a meaner set of cut-throats in all
Dixie."

"Then, for heaven's sake, let's go in and hunt up our party!" said I,
really apprehensive as to their safety. Three or four volunteered at
once. Over the fence we went, and on into the pitchy darkness beyond.
Stumbling over logs and cracking sticks and leaves, squashing through
mud-holes and marshy ground, we plunged ahead, until a minute or two
brought us panting into a comparatively open space, and there we paused
to listen. Up to this time I had heard not a sound from the pursuit, and
hardly knew which way to turn. Each man held his breath and strained his
ears.

Another minute and it came,--well on to the front,--a yell, a shot,
another shot, and then,--"This way!" "This way!" "Here they are!" The
rest was drowned by our own rush, as we once more plunged into the
thicket and on towards the shouts. All of us were armed in one way or
another,--it is rare enough that any man goes otherwise in that section
of the country,--and to me there was a terrible excitement about the
whole affair, and my heart came bounding up to my throat with every
stride.

One or two more shots were heard, and on we kept until, just as every
man was almost breathless and used up, we were brought to a sudden stop
on the steep bank of a bayou that stretched far to either side of our
path, right and left, completely barring farther progress.

In blank amazement, and utterly at a loss what to do, we were gazing
stupidly in one another's faces, as one after another we gathered on the
brink, when there came a sudden exclamation from the midst of
us,--"Who's that?" I jumped, thanks to startled nerves, and looked
around.

A dark form came creeping slowly up the bank, and a weak voice said,--

"Don't shoot, fellows. I'm all right, but they nigh onto finished me,
and they've got Hank Smith away anyhow."

We crowded around him with questions; but he was faint and sick and the
blood was streaming from a cut on his forehead. A long pull at a flask
tendered by some sympathetic soul in the group revived him enough to
tell his experience.

"Me and the lieutenant took out through the open until we had to take to
the bush. Didn't see the conductor nor Jim anywhere, but we gained on
the Kluxers. Pretty soon we heard 'em busting through the bushes and
heard 'em holler. I got blowed, but the lieutenant, he went ahead like
as though he'd done nothing but jump since he was a pup. I never seen
such a kangaroo. He got clean out of sight, and all of a sudden I heard
him holler; and then came a couple o' shots; and pretty quick I came
upon him and another cuss just more than going for one another in the
bushes. The Yankee had him under, though, and had winged him on the run.
When I came up he says to me, says he, 'You look out for this man now.
He can't hurt you, but if he squirms, you put a hole in him. I'm going
on after the others.' So on he went, and I took a look round. I'd sat
down on the cuss to make sure I had him, and my pistol at his ear. He
was lyin' right here a-glarin' up at me, and the moment I got a good,
square look at his face, d--n my eyes if it wasn't Hank Smith! Then I
began to feel bully; and just then I heard some other fellows running
up, and thought it was our crowd, so I yelled out that I was here and
had Hank Smith all right; and he kinder grinned; and they hollered
'bully' too; and next thing I knew one of 'em ran up and fetched me a
wipe over the head and rolled me off down the bank, and there I've been
mud-hugging ever since.

"I was stunned, but knew enough to lie quiet, and they got into some
kind of a boat and went paddling off across the creek; but Hank was
groaning and cussing so that I couldn't hear nothing but him. He swore
by all that was holy that he'd have that Yank's heart's-blood before the
month was out, and I tell you the lieutenant had better keep his eye
peeled or he'll do it."

So we had lost him after all! It was too bad! and so said the conductor
and baggage-master when they rejoined us a few minutes after, bringing
with them the cavalryman, all three out of breath, covered with mud and
scratches, and the latter looking very white and saying but little. I
noticed that his handkerchief was bound tightly round his left hand, and
divined the cause at once. My respect for Mars was rising every minute.
He took a pull at the flask, looked revived, and as we all turned
moodily back to the train, I asked him about his hurt. "Nothing but a
clip on the hand," said he; "but I suppose it bled a good deal before I
noticed it, and made me a little faint after the row was over. I
suspected those fellows who were in our car; in fact, had been sent up
to Corinth to look after one or two just such specimens, and was on my
way back to my troop by this train. If that man was Hank Smith, as they
seem to think, I would almost rather have lost my commission than him."
Mars's teeth came together solidly as he gave vent to this sentiment,
and his strides unconsciously lengthened so that I had to strike an
amble to keep up.

By this time we had worked our way back into a comparatively open space
again, and could see the dim lights of the train several hundred yards
off. The rest of our little party kept crowding around us and offering
my young hero cordial expressions of sympathy for his hurt, and, in
homely phrase, many a compliment on his plucky fight. Mars took it all
in a laughing sort of way, but was evidently too disgusted at the escape
of his bird to care to talk much about anything. Nevertheless, before we
got back to the train I gave him my name, and, as an old friend of Judge
Summers's, whom I presumed he knew, trusted that I might meet him
frequently, and that we might become better acquainted.

"Thank you, Mr. Brandon," he answered; "I have heard the judge speak of
you, and am sorry I did not know sooner who you were. My name is
Amory."

"Have you been long in the South?" I asked.

"No, sir; only a month or two. In fact,"--and here something like a
blush stole up to the young fellow's cheek,--"I only graduated in this
last class--'71--from the Academy, and so have seen but little of any
kind of service."

"You're soldier all over, at any rate," thought I, as I looked at the
erect, graceful figure beside me; and wondered--my thoughts suddenly
reverting to Miss Kitty--how a young girl could find it in her heart to
snub such a handsome fellow as that, Yank or no Yank.

A few strides more brought us to the train, where Amory, whose gallantry
had already been noised abroad among the passengers, was immediately
surrounded by an excited group of non-combatants, while I jumped into
our car to see how my little _protégée_ had fared during our absence.
She looked vastly relieved at my reappearance, having of course learned
the true state of affairs soon after our sudden departure. I told her
briefly what had happened, taking rather a mischievous delight in
dilating upon Mars's achievement, and affecting not to notice the
expression of mingled contempt and incredulity that promptly appeared in
her pretty face. Mars himself did not reappear: he had gone into the
baggage-car to bathe his hand and accept the eager attentions of one or
two Africans, native and to the manner born, who were vying with one
another in brushing off the dirt from his snugly-fitting uniform. He was
still surrounded by a knot of passengers and train-hands when I went
forward to see how he was getting along, which I did when the train
started, but we exchanged a cordial grip of the hand; and parted with
the promise of meeting at "the judge's," or the cavalry camp, a few
miles beyond, within the next two or three days.

The whistle for Sandbrook was just beginning as I rejoined Miss Kitty,
and, after a vigorous life of at least two minutes, wound up in a dismal
whine as we rolled in among the lights at the station. Yes, there they
were, ready and waiting for us. The genial, gray-haired old judge and
Miss Pauline herself, his only and devoted daughter, in whose arms Miss
Kit was rapturously enfolded the instant she hopped from the platform.
There, too, was old Jake Biggs, whom the conductor had mentioned as
mademoiselle's escort in case no one else appeared,--Jake and his boon
companion, his faithful old horse, "Bob," so named in honor of General
Lee. Jake was an old colored servant of the Summers family, and had
followed his "young massa," Harrod Summers, all through the war; had
seen him rise from subaltern to colonel; had nursed him through wounds
and illness; and at last when the war was over, and Harrod, who had gone
forth with the enthusiasm and ardor of a boy, returned to his father's
home, old Jake contentedly followed him, and settled down in one of the
few log cabins that remained on the almost ruined estate of the
Summers'. Jake was a "free nigger" now, but the world to him was wrapped
up in old associations and "Mars' Harrod." No such soldier ever had
lived as his "cunnel," no such statesman as the judge; no such belle as
Missy Pauline. And Jake not only would not leave them, but in a vague
and chivalric manner he stumbled about the premises, lording it over the
young niggers and making mighty pretence at earning an independent
livelihood for himself by "doin' chores" around the neighborhood, and in
hauling loads from the depot to the different plantations within a few
miles' radius of Sandbrook. He had managed to scrape up a dilapidated
cart and harness somewhere or other, and poor old Bob furnished, greatly
to his disgust, the draft and motive power. Having been a fine and
spirited saddle-horse in his younger days, Bob had naturally rebelled at
the idea of coming down to the level of the plantation mules, and had
shown something of his former self in the vigorous and determined
remonstrance which resulted on the occasion of Jake's first experiments
with the harness; but beyond a temporary dislocation of buckles, straps,
and dash-board, and a volley of African anathemas and "Whoa da's" from
his master, poor old Bob's rebellion had accomplished nothing, and he
had finally settled down into a resigned and dreamy existence, and went
plodding about the vicinity with the asthmatic cart at his heels, a
victim to the vicissitudes of war.

Jake was a pet of mine, and had amused me very much on the occasion of
my first visit to the judge's, and that's why I tell so long a rigmarole
about him. He stood there, a little aloof from the "quality folks,"
grinning and bowing, and making huge semicircular sweeps with his
battered old hat, in his anxiety to do proper honor to the judge's
guests.

I had a chance to receive my especial welcome while Miss Kit was being
almost devoured by her relatives; and presently the baggage was all
pitched off; the train moved on with a parting whoop; Mars appeared at
the rear door and gave me a farewell wave of the hand; and then, leaving
to Jake and Bob the responsible duty of transporting the young lady's
trunks, we four--Miss Summers and Miss Kit, the judge and I--were duly
ensconced in the comfortable old carriage, and went jolting off
homeward.

Mr. Summers and I had much to talk about, and finding it impossible to
get a word in edgewise with the two young ladies, who were fondling,
fluttering, cooing, and chattering on the back seat in the most absorbed
manner imaginable, we gradually drifted off into our law business and
let them gossip away and exchange volleys of news and caresses.

The judge was deeply interested in my account of the adventure with the
Ku-Klux, and much concerned about Amory's hurt.

I learned from him of the desperate and lawless character of the men who
were generally believed to be the prominent members of the gang, and the
perpetrators of the dastardly outrages that had been so recently
inflicted both upon the negroes and the whites. The people were
terrified beyond expression; several had been driven from the country;
several had been shot down in cold blood. A defenceless girl who had
been sent down from the North as teacher of the freedmen's school, had
been dragged from her bed at midnight and brutally whipped by some
cowardly ruffians. The sheriff, who had arrested one of the suspected
parties, was threatened in an anonymous letter with death if he failed
to release his prisoner within twenty-four hours. He called upon the
citizens for assistance, but none was given, for the Union people were
too few. A dozen men in mask surrounded his house the next night; his
wife heard the strange noise, and went to the door; opened it, and was
shot dead in her tracks. The jail was forced, the prisoner released and
spirited off beyond the limits of the State.

All this was going on, when, to the great joy of peace-loving people,
and undisguised anger of the unreconstructed, a troop of United States
cavalry came suddenly to the scene. Several arrests of known murderers
and marauders were made; and, until that very evening, nothing more had
been heard of the dreaded Ku-Klux. Indeed, it was by some persons
believed that their organization was broken up, and nothing but the
positive testimony of one of their own neighbors, the man to whom Amory
had turned over his prisoner, would induce the citizens generally to
believe that Hank Smith himself was concerned in the attempted robbery
of the express car. The cavalry had been there just about a month when
this affair took place.



CHAPTER III.


Miss Kitty's tongue had been far from idle all the time that the judge
and I had been talking over these matters, but it was only just before
we reached our destination that I heard her telling Miss Summers of the
events of the evening. The moment she mentioned that our lieutenant was
hurt, Miss Pauline started and exclaimed,--

"Oh, Kitty! You don't mean it! What _will_ Major Vinton say?"

"Who is Major Vinton?" said Miss Kit.

"Major Vinton is the commanding officer of the cavalry, and Mr. Amory is
one of his lieutenants. Father knows them both very well, and the major
is with us almost every day," was the answer.

Miss Kit's eyes must have been as big as saucers when she heard that. I
couldn't see, but knew it when she exclaimed, in tones almost
horror-stricken,--

"Oh, Pauline! Do you mean to tell me that uncle and you receive Yankee
officers! I wouldn't have believed it!"

"You don't know him, Kitty," was Miss Summers's quiet answer. "I
believe that we owe father's life to him, and I know that, but for him,
none of us could have remained here. He is a thorough gentleman, and
you'd like him if you only knew him as we do. As for Mr. Amory, he is
only a boy, to be sure; but the major says he is a fine officer, and I
know that he is a real nice fellow."

Miss Kit relapsed into amazed silence; the judge added some few gentle
words of reproof for her treatment of the youngster; and I was smiling
to myself over the whole affair, when we drove up to the main entrance
of their once beautiful home. A tall, soldierly-looking man opened the
door, exchanged a word of greeting with Miss Summers as he assisted the
ladies to alight, and then, as they scurried away up the stairs, I was
introduced to Major Vinton.

Now, though we had never met before, the major's name was by no means
unfamiliar. We were both New Yorkers; both had struggled through
Columbia, and had many a wrestle with Anthon and Drisler; both had
rushed to arms in heroic style and tramped off for Washington at the
first call for troops. But I had speedily tramped back again; while he
remained, chose the cavalry arm of the service, fought his way up to the
command of his regiment; and when, in 1865, his services were no longer
needed, sheathed his sabre; put aside his well-worn regimentals; tried
hard to interest himself in some civil pursuit; took a brief tour
abroad, returned just as the new organization of the regular army was
being made, and meeting one night a joyous bevy of his old comrades,
regular and volunteer, with whom he had fought over every field from
Bull Run to Five Forks, the old fire was fanned into a blaze, and in one
week he found himself a successful candidate for a captaincy of cavalry.
The "major" came afterwards "by brevet," and Vinton had settled down
into contentedly following the old life, though in a less exciting time
and exalted capacity. He greeted me in a frank, warm-hearted way; and we
were in the midst of a comparison of notes as to old college names, when
the judge interrupted us with,--

"Vinton, Mr. Brandon brings important news, which I think you ought to
know at once." So once again the story of our little adventure was told.

The major listened attentively and never interposed a word; but his brow
darkened and his face set when I came to Amory's wound and Hank Smith's
parting threat. The instant I finished he turned to a servant, saying,--

"Be good enough to tell my orderly to bring the horses round at once."

In vain the judge begged him to stay and have supper, or at least some
little refreshment. The major said, very quietly, that he must be off
to camp at once; asked me one or two more questions in a business-like
way; and the moment the horses came, bade us good night, swung into
saddle, and followed by his orderly, disappeared at a rapid trot. The
judge and I stood listening on the portico until the hoof-beats died
away, and then returned to the blaze of the great wood-fire in the
sitting-room. The young ladies came fluttering down-stairs. Supper was
announced. Miss Pauline looked inquiringly around as we walked into the
next room, where a bounteous table was spread.

"Where is Major Vinton, father?"

"Gone back to camp, dear. He asked me to present his excuses to you, but
he was obliged to leave as soon as he heard of this affair."

I fancied that a shade of disappointment settled on Miss Summers's face,
but she merely answered, "Indeed, I'm very sorry," and busied herself
with the tea and coffee.

Miss Kit looked immensely relieved, and immediately became
radiant;--chattered like a little magpie,--in fact, was as charming and
bewitching as possible; but it was already late; good-nights were soon
exchanged; and, tired out, the household went to sleep.

Next morning when we assembled in the breakfast-room, our little heroine
looked fresher, prettier, and _tinier_ than the day before. This time
her hair was "fixed," and that was the only point that in my eyes was
no improvement. All day long the judge and I roamed about the premises
or pored over the cases he had on hand. All day long the young ladies
laughed, chatted, flitted about from one room to another, played and
sang. No news came from the camp. Late in the afternoon, when we were
all standing on the portico, a solitary trooper came cantering up the
road along which the major had disappeared the night before. Without
knowing why, I found my eyes turning upon Miss Summers. She was
listening abstractedly to Miss Kit's account of a visit to the Mammoth
Cave, but _her_ eyes were fixed upon the horseman as he rapidly neared
the gate,--neared it, and, never drawing rein or checking speed, rode
stolidly past on the road to Sandbrook depot. The wistful, almost eager
light faded from her soft brown eyes; the full lip quivered one little
bit; but quickly rallying, she plunged into a blithe wordy skirmish with
her cousin about some alleged flirtation of the summer previous.

Evening came, and with it Harrod Summers and Mr. Peyton; both making
much over Miss Kit; both bemoaning the accident which had prevented
their meeting; and both apparently pleased to know that "Mr. Brandon was
_so_ kind and attentive." I had known Harrod slightly before, as he was
away much of the time of my previous visit; but I knew him to be his
father's son, a man to be honored and respected. Of Peyton, the less
said the better. He was a rash, foolhardy, and, I feared, criminally
reckless boy, a violent "reb" and unsparing hater of every Yankee. I had
heard grave stories concerning his connection with some of the acts of
violence committed upon the Union-loving people in the vicinity, and had
noticed the troubled look on the judge's face every time his name was
mentioned. I knew that he had been arrested, and that there was strong
presumptive evidence as to his guilt; but he had been immediately bailed
out and released. After this occurrence, the judge had managed to
persuade him to take a trip to Havana and New Orleans; but the moment he
heard of Miss Kitty's projected visit he came hurrying back. They were
second cousins, and had met abroad. Rumor had it that Peyton had offered
himself; that Miss Kit had a girlish fancy for him; that his suit
promised favorably until Aunt Mary became suddenly aware of this nice
little family arrangement, and, being a woman of the world, and
possessed of a keen sense of what constituted the eligible and
ineligible in a young man, swooped remorselessly down upon the blissful
pair; hustled Master Ned into immediate exile; and, gathering her one
chicken under the shadow of her protecting wing, bore her in triumph
away to a realm uninfested with dangerous young men. Miss Kit is said
to have shed bitter tears one week; sulked the next; pouted another; to
have made a vigorous and romantic attempt at pining in all three; but
the effort was too much for her; and, being wisely left to herself, it
was not long before Peyton and his escapades were to her matters of
serene indifference.

Not so with him, however. To do him justice, Peyton was probably very
much in love; and at all events had a very correct idea of the unlimited
benefits to be obtained through the medium of Miss Kit's solid bank
account. He was no fool, if he was a reprobate; and was as handsome and
naughty a wolf as could be found infesting Southern sheepfolds; and here
he was, primed and ready to renew the attack. The judge didn't like it;
Miss Summers didn't; nor Harrod; nor I; but it only took a few hours to
convince us all that our beauty had just enough feminine mischief in her
to enjoy the prospect of another flirtation with her old flame; and so
to all but Peyton and to her, the evening passed gloomily enough. The
judge retired to his library; Miss Summers played soft, sad music at the
piano; and Harrod and I smoked cigar after cigar upon the porch.

Ten o'clock came and still the pair were cooing away in the corner;
Kitty's low, sweet, bubbling laugh floating out through the open
casement to where we sat. Miss Summers closed her piano abruptly; came
out to our nook on the portico; and, declining the offer of a chair,
stood leaning her hand upon her brother's shoulder.

Harrod looked fondly up at her for a moment or two as she gazed out
towards the gate; then a teasing smile played about his mouth as he
asked,--

"Anybody been here to-day, Paulie?"

"No-o-o-o! That is, nobody to speak of."

"No major, then?"

Pauline looks squarely down into her brother's eyes as she answers, "No
major, if you refer to Major Vinton." A little heightened color,
perhaps, but that's all. She is as brave as Harrod and not easy to
tease.

Harrod turns to me: "Do you think he has gone after those men with his
troop, Mr. Brandon?"

"I don't know, colonel; he said nothing about it, but rode off
immediately. I shouldn't wonder, though; for the judge tells me he is
over here almost every day."

"Ye-e-es?" (inquiringly.) "How is that, Paulie?"

Paulie has no reasons to allege; probably he wouldn't come if he didn't
want to.

"True enough," Harrod suggests; "and still less unless he knew he was
welcome. He is awfully proud, isn't he, Paulie?"

"Indeed, Harrod, I don't know; but he is welcome, and any man who has
rendered us the service he has in protecting our father against the
fury of that mob on court-day, ought to be welcome among us!"--Color
rising and a perceptible tremor of the hand on Harrod's shoulder. He
takes it gently and leans his cheek lovingly upon it as he looks up at
the flushing face, whose dark eyes still gaze unflinchingly into his
own.

"You are right enough, dear, and you know I agree with you. He _is_ a
noble fellow, Brandon, and I hope you'll meet and know him better.
Father's decision against two or three Ku-Klux raised a terrible row
here; and as he attempted to leave the court-house with one or two
friends the mob hooted him; and even his long residence among these
people would not have saved him. They call him traitor and Yankee now.
Well, father tried to speak to them, but they wouldn't listen. A few
more friends gathered round him; a blow was struck; and then the mob
charged. Shooting ensued, of course, and two of their own men were badly
wounded, while father and his party of six barred themselves in the
court-house. Old Jake Biggs dashed out to camp, luckily meeting Major
Vinton on the way, and in five minutes from the time the first shot was
fired, and before those howling devils could break down the door, Vinton
darted at a gallop into their midst,--not a soul with him but his
orderly,--rode up to the door as though he were built of cast iron, and
then turned squarely and confronted the whole mob. There's only one
thing on earth these people are afraid of, Brandon: they don't care a
fig for law, sheriffs, or marshals, but they would rather see the devil
than the Federal uniform. And for ten minutes Vinton and his one man
kept that mob at bay; and then young Amory with half the troop came
tearing into town, and if the major hadn't checked them, would have gone
through that crowd in ten seconds.

"The mob skulked off; but they hate father and the cavalry most
bitterly, and would wreak their vengeance if they dared. I was away in
Mobile at the time, and knew nothing about the affair until next day,
when my sister's telegram came; but the sheriff never tires of telling
how the major rode into that crowd; and how mad Mr. Amory was because
Vinton stopped his charge."

"No wonder you all think so much of him, colonel," I answered. "He comes
of a noble old race, and whether as enemy or friend you cannot fail to
respect him; and I'm glad to see a cordial feeling springing up between
our sections in this way. I would to God it were more general!"

"Ah, Brandon, it is not the soldiers, not the men who did the fighting,
who are bitter now. Our enemies in the North are the men who sat at home
wondering why your Army of the Potomac didn't move. Your enemies are
those who never felt the shock of Northern arms. We would have had peace
long ago could the soldiers have been allowed to make the terms."

And so we sat and talked, until the clocks throughout the house were
chiming eleven, and then Miss Summers declared we must retire. The
corner flirtation was broken up; Peyton and Miss Kit exchanging a
lingering and inaudible good-night at the stairs. Harrod and I closed
and bolted doors and windows. Peyton stuck his hands in his pockets and
walked nervously up and down the hall buried in thought until we had
finished our work; and then, on receiving Colonel Summers' somewhat cold
intimation that it was time to go to bed, wished us a sulky "pleasant
dreams," took his candle and disappeared.

Harrod waited until he was out of hearing and then said to me, "They are
all out of the way now, Brandon, and I want to see you one moment. It is
a hard thing to say of one's own kinsman, but Peyton can't be trusted in
this matter. Here is a letter that was left for father at the
post-office in town, but I have opened and withheld it, knowing that it
would only cause him unnecessary trouble. I'm worried about it, and had
hoped that Vinton would have come over to-day; we're safe enough with
him and his men."

Saying this he handed me the letter. I had seen them before; Ku-Klux
anonymous rascalities,--a huge, coarse, brown envelope, directed in a
sprawling hand to the "Honerable Judge Summers," and embellished in red
ink with numerous death's-heads, K. K.'s, and in the upper left-hand
corner a flaming scroll, on which appeared in bold relief the words
"Blood! Death! Liberty!" The whole affair was ludicrous enough in
appearance, and, throwing it to one side, I read the inclosure. It began
with the usual "Death to Traitors," and wound up, after one or two
incoherent "whereases" and "therefores," by informing the judge that if
he remained in that vicinity twenty-four hours longer "all the damned
Yankees this side of hell couldn't save him," and intimating that the
lives of the Federal officers upon whom he relied "weren't worth their
weight in mud."

Harrod and I sat for some time talking over this elegant document, and
decided that nothing should be said until we could see Major Vinton on
the following day. The camp was six miles away, and on the outskirts of
the county-seat where the court-house row had taken place; and Sandbrook
was nearly as far in the opposite direction. He anticipated no danger
for that night; but such had been the reckless nature of the Klan, that
we agreed it best to be on the safe side and to look well to our arms;
then we parted, each to his own room.



CHAPTER IV.


It was a clear, starlit night and very mild, almost warm, in fact; and
having spent my Christmas but a few days before amid the orange groves
and magnolias of Louisiana, I had prepared myself for something more
wintry on the borders of Tennessee; but up to that time my overcoat had
been insupportable.

The combined effects of half a dozen cigars and the conversation just
concluded with Harrod Summers had banished all desire for sleep. In
fact, if I must confess it, I was nervous and ill at ease. The room
seemed close and stifling, so I opened both window and door to secure
the full benefit of the cool night-air, and then proceeded to make
myself comfortable. First pulling off my boots and insinuating my feet
into an easy old pair of slippers, I took the boots to the door and
deposited them noiselessly in the hall, where small Pomp, the "general
utility" man of the household, could find and black them in the morning.
A dim light was burning on a little table in the hall, and I noticed Mr.
Peyton's boots at his door, the door next to mine, and on the same side
of the hall. We were quartered in what was known as the east wing, a
one-storied addition to the main building, containing four sleeping
apartments for the use of the judge's guests; the floor, as is generally
the case in these Southern houses, being elevated some eight or nine
feet above the ground.

Peyton and I were the only occupants of the wing that night; the rooms
of the rest of the household being in the main building. It occurred to
me, therefore, that the hall lamp was unnecessary there; and so I
crossed over, took it from its table, and was returning with it to my
own room, when I heard a long, shrill, distant whistle. It came from the
direction of the woods on the eastern side of the plantation, so far
away, in fact, that save in the dead of night it probably would have
failed to attract attention. Involuntarily I stopped short in my tracks,
listening; and involuntarily, too, I looked at Peyton's door. It was
closed, but the transom above it was open, and all was darkness within.
No sound had come from his room before, and I supposed him asleep; and
now, as if in corroboration of that supposition, he began to snore;
rather a louder and more demonstrative snore than would have been
natural from so sudden a start, I thought afterwards. Meantime, I stood
still a minute and listened. The whistle died away, and there was no
answer or repetition; the snoring continued; I moved on into my room;
closed and bolted the door; put my lamp on the bureau; took out my
revolver and carefully examined it; then turned down the light until
nothing but a mere glimmer was left; crouched down by the open window,
and looked out. The stillness was so intense that the ticking of my
watch and the loud beating of my heart seemed insupportable. Leaning out
from the casement, I could see that Peyton's window, too, was open, and
that there was a little shed of some kind beneath it, whose roof reached
up to within about five feet of the window-sill. Garden-tools were
probably stored there, as I had noticed a few spades and a wheelbarrow
during the day. Peyton was still snoring, though less loudly.

I listened for ten minutes more, and still no sound came from the
direction in which I had heard the whistle, save the distant neigh of a
horse and the occasional barking of dogs. Yet my nerves were upset. That
whistle _must_ have been a signal of some kind, and, if so, what did it
portend? At last, being unable to arrive at any conclusion, I determined
to lie down and think it over; and so, taking off coat and waist-coat,
and putting on a loose wrapper, I threw myself upon the bed. It must
have been after midnight then, yet I could not sleep, and at the same
time thinking was an effort. I found myself listening intently for every
sound, and holding my breath every time the distant bark of a dog or
the lowing of cattle was heard.

An hour passed; nothing further happened; and I began to feel drowsy at
last and to regard myself as the easiest man to scare in the whole
county. Soon after, I must have fallen into a doze; an uneasy, fitful
slumber it must have been, too; for the very next thing I knew I found
myself sitting bolt upright; every nerve strained; and listening with
beating heart to the same signal whistle; only this time, though low and
cautious, it was nearer; and, unless I was vastly mistaken, came from a
little clump of trees just beyond the eastern fence. Harrod's big
Newfoundland, who always slept on the porch in front of the house, and
seldom, if ever, barked or made any disturbance at night, came tearing
around to our side, growling fiercely, and evidently excited and
alarmed.

_Something_ was up, that was certain; and immediately I began to wonder
what ought to be done. The call was not repeated; all was soon quiet
again. "Blondo" had given one or two low, short barks; scouted through
the grounds about the house; and returned to the southern front again.
After one or two moments' consideration he had given another, a sort of
interrogatory bark, as though he expected a reply; and then, with a
dissatisfied sniff at hearing nothing further, slowly returned to his
usual post. Blondo's nerves were better than mine. I thought over the
matter ten minutes longer in the most undecided manner imaginable.
Harrod had plainly intimated that he suspected Mr. Peyton of complicity
with the Ku-Klux or I would have awakened him; as it was, I was
possessed with the idea that he ought to know nothing of our suspicions,
nothing of the anonymous letter (from us, at least), and in no manner or
way be admitted to confidence. Rather hard on Peyton, to be sure; but
there _was_ something about him I didn't like, something besides the
mere fact that I saw he didn't like me, and----What was that! There
_could_ be no mistake! I plainly saw through my open window a sudden
gleam of light among the leaves of the oak-tree on the other side of the
garden-walk. It was as though the light had been momentarily thrown upon
it from a bull's-eye lantern and instantly withdrawn. More than that,
the light was thrown upon it from this side. Thoroughly aroused now, I
stole noiselessly from the bed; took my revolver; and, making the least
possible "creak" in turning the key, I slowly opened my door, and on
tiptoe and in stocking feet crept out into the hall. My plan was to go
and arouse Harrod.

Without closing my door I turned stealthily away; and, as a matter of
course, stumbled over one of my boots. There they were, right at the
door, just where I had left them, and visible enough for all practical
purposes in the dim light that came from my open doorway and the window
at the end of the hall. It was clumsy and stupid of me. I looked towards
Peyton's door, wondering if the noise, slight as it was, had awakened
him. No more snoring, at all events. I took a step or two towards his
room to listen, looked carefully down to see that I didn't stumble over
his boots too, and then stopped short.

Peyton's boots were no longer there.

For a moment I could not realize it; then I stole closer to the door,
and the door that I knew was tightly closed when I came up-stairs was
now unlatched and partly open. The conviction forced itself into my mind
that my next-door neighbor was up to some of his old devilment, and that
that signal whistle had some connection with the mysterious
disappearance of his boots. Peeping through the partly-opened door, I
could see the bed, its coverlet undisturbed, its pillows smooth and
untouched. That was enough to embolden me, and at the same time make me
mad. All that snoring was a counterfeit for _my_ benefit, was it? I
opened the door and looked in: no signs of its late occupant; Ned Peyton
had gone.

Sorely puzzled what to do next, I sidled out again; sneaked out, I might
as well say, for that's the way I felt; and leaving his door as I found
it, returned to my own room and took post at the window. Curiously
enough, the discovery of Peyton's absence and his probable connection
with the mysterious signals without, had had a wonderful effect in
restoring me to confidence and endowing me with a fabulous amount of
pluck and courage. The idea of summoning Harrod was abandoned; the thing
to be done now was to find out what my amiable next-door neighbor was up
to; and, if possible, to do so without letting him know that his nice
little game was detected.

A clock somewhere in the hall struck three while I was pondering over
the matter. Ten minutes afterwards there came a stealthy step on the
garden-walk, and the figure of a man emerged from behind an old arbor
near the oak-tree. It was Peyton, of course, although the light was too
uncertain to admit of my recognizing him until he came nearer.

I crouched down lower, but kept him in view. Cautiously and slowly
Master Ned tiptoed it up to the little tool-house under his window;
swung himself carefully up to the roof; crept on all-fours until he
reached the top; and then, making very little noise, clambered into his
window and disappeared from view. A moment or two after, I heard him
softly deposit his boots in the hall; close and bolt his door; and soon
after tumble into bed. Evidently, then, we had nothing further to fear
for that night at least; and in fifteen minutes I was sound asleep.

At breakfast the next morning the household generally put in a late
appearance. Peyton established himself at Miss Kitty's side and
monopolized her in the most lover-like manner. Immediately afterwards
the pair sallied forth for a walk. Miss Summers looked very anxiously
after them until they disappeared in the shrubbery, and then turned to
Harrod with an appealing look in her eyes.

"I don't know what to do, Harrod. I didn't imagine the possibility of
his coming back here when we invited Kitty."

"Don't worry about it, Pauline. Mr. Brandon and I are going to drive
over to the cavalry camp this morning, and this afternoon I'll have a
talk with Ned. How soon can you get through your talk with father?" he
suddenly asked, turning to me.

"Twenty minutes at most will be long enough," I answered; so he sent off
to the stable to order the carriage.

The judge and I strolled slowly around the house, planning the course to
be pursued in the prosecution of the men who had been arrested under the
"enforcement act." As we sauntered along the garden-walk on the eastern
side, I naturally glanced up at my window and Peyton's. A coarse brown
envelope was lying right at the door of the little tool-house, the very
place where he had clambered to the roof the night before. "We lawyers
are curious," and, without interrupting the judge's conversation, I
"obliqued" over to the left; picked up the envelope; dropped it
carelessly into my pocket; and went on talking without having attracted
the judge's attention to the movement.

After the judge had returned to his study, and before Harrod was ready,
I had an opportunity of investigating this precious document. It only
needed a glance to assure me that it was just such another envelope as
the one which inclosed the Ku-Klux letter to the judge that Harrod had
shown me, and that fact was sufficient to remove any scruples I might
have had as to reading its contents. The envelope bore no mark or
address. The inclosure was as follows:

     "CAPTAIN PEYTON:

     "DEAR SIR,--The Yankee major, with forty of his men, went off in a
     hurry late last night, leaving the lieutenant and about ten men in
     camp. They're after Hank and the crowd, but we got notice in time,
     broke up the ranch, and scattered. Hank's wound is pretty rough; he
     played a d--d fool trick in trying to get that express money, and
     the boys all think he'd been drinking again. Three of us took him
     over the Big Bear in Scantwell's boat, and on up to Chickasaw. He
     sent me back from there to see you and tell you to watch out for
     every chance to get word to him. He'll be at Eustice's, across the
     Tennessee, until his arm is well; and then he's coming back to get
     square with the Yank who shot him. The lieutenant has got an
     infernal bad cut on the left hand, and can't do nothing for the
     next week. Look out for signal any night about two o'clock. Burn
     this.

     "Yours respectfully,

     "BLACKEY."

Here was a pretty piece of villainy. I thought earnestly whether to show
it immediately to Harrod and make a full _exposé_ of Peyton's complicity
with the affair; but, before I could decide, the carriage came; and with
the driver listening to every word that was said, it was out of the
question. It was scandalous enough as it stood without letting the
servants know of it. We talked a good deal about their general
performances, but in no way alluded to the latest developments of the
Klan as we drove rapidly along. Neither expected to find Major Vinton
there at camp; but I had reason to know that Amory would be on hand, and
had determined to give him immediate information as to the whereabouts
of Smith that he might send out a party to secure him.

Sure enough, only one or two soldiers were to be seen when we drove up,
but a corporal took us to Amory's tent. He sprang up from the little
camp-bed in which he was lounging and reading; gave us a cordial
welcome; and, in reply to our questions, stated that the major had gone
out with three days' rations and nearly all the men, hoping to hunt up
and capture the gang. A United States marshal was with him, who felt
certain that he could guide him to the very point on the bayou where the
fight had taken place. He had started about three o'clock on the
previous morning, just as soon as rations could be cooked, and was
determined to hunt them to their holes.

"I expect him back every hour, and am disgusted enough at being ordered
to stay behind; but he and the doctor both forbade my going, so here I
am playing the invalid." His arm was still in a sling and the hand
closely bound.

We sat and chatted for some twenty minutes. Amory inquired after "the
young ladies" very calmly; made no allusion to Miss Kitty's snub;
accounted for his non-appearance the day before by saying that the
doctor had insisted on his remaining quiet in his tent; and so neither
Harrod nor I saw fit to make any apology for our troublesome little
heroine. She was worrying all of us now,--innocently enough perhaps, but
sorely for all that.

Harrod turned the subject to Hank Smith; and, finding that Amory had
not heard of his threat as related by the man whom his friends had
"fetched a wipe over the head," repeated it to him, and warned him to be
on his guard. Mars took it coolly enough; expressed his readiness to
welcome Hank and his adherents to hospitable graves; and, except that
his teeth came as solidly together as they had when alluding to the
ruffian's escape two nights previous, displayed no symptoms of the
slightest emotion at the prospect of losing a quart or two of
"heart's-blood" within the month.

Presently Harrod drove off to the village to make some necessary
purchases, promising to return for me within an hour. Then I lost not a
moment in giving Mars my information about Hank Smith; where he was to
be found, etc., but without mentioning Peyton's connection with the
affair or stating how the news came into my possession. He asked, of
course, but I gave a good reason for declining to name the person who
had volunteered the news, at the same time assuring him of my belief in
its truth.

Mars was all ablaze in a minute. Chickasaw was at least twelve miles
away and to the north. Vinton's plan, and the marshal's, was to go
south-west, should they find the ranch abandoned, and search a number of
suspected points in Tishomingo and Prentiss Counties. All the gang by
this time knew that there was a hunt going on, and, at the cry of
"Yanks coming," had scattered in every direction. Smith thought himself
safe across the Tennessee, and would probably have only one or two men
with him. Amory was fairly excited this time anyhow, and in ten minutes
had made up his mind; gave his orders to a non-commissioned officer,
wrote a letter to Major Vinton, with instructions to deliver it
immediately upon the return of the troop to camp, and before Harrod
Summers' return, had vaulted lightly into saddle, waved me a laughing
good-by, and trotted off at the head of a little squad of five
dragoons,--all the men he could possibly take. I watched them till they
disappeared from view on the road to the Tennessee and then sat me down
to wait for Harrod.

The corporal who had shown us to Amory's tent was on "sick-report" he
said, with chills and fever. He, with three or four others, remained in
charge of camp, and I amused myself listening to their talk about their
officers and the Ku-Klux. An old darky on a mule came in to sell
chickens, and after him, a seedy-looking fellow on a shaggy pony,--he
"didn't want nothing in particular, unless it was to know when the
captain'd be back."

The corporal was non-committal,--didn't know. The seedy party shifted
around in his saddle, and, after profuse expectoration, "reckoned that
the lieutenant warn't much hurt nohow."

"Why so?" says the corporal.

"'Cause he's off so quick again."

"That don't prove anything," says the dragoon.

"Whar's he gone to?" says Seedy.

"Don't know."

"Ain't gone far, I reckon; didn't take no rations, did he?"

"Don't know."

"I kind of wondered _why_ he took the north road _fur_, if he wanted to
catch the captain, 'cause I knew _he_ was out towards Guntown."

"_How_ did you know?"

"Well, I heard so, that's all."

The corporal looks steadily at Seedy, and is apparently suspicious.
Seedy turns his quid over with his tongue and looks all around. He's a
bad hand at extracting information, at all events. At last he makes
another venture.

"Wish I knew how far up the north road the lieutenant went. I've got
some business up towards the Tennessee. I belong to a missionary society
hereabouts, and yet I don't like to take that long ride alone."

I hear the corporal mutter a rather unflattering comment on _that_
statement; and it occurs to me that there is more of the odor of bad
whiskey than sanctity about the member of the missionary society. He
reminds me of Mr. Stiggins; and Mr. Stiggins makes one more attempt.

"Whar am I most like to catch the boys by dinner-time?"

"Don't know."

The member looks incredulous and indignant; and after a long survey of
every object in range about the camp, turns his dejected steed slowly
around and shambles off, with the parting shot,--

"Reckon you never _did_ know nothin', did you?" To which the corporal
responds,--

"No; and if I _did_, I wouldn't tell you, Johnny."

Stiggins strikes a canter on reaching the main road, and disappears on
the trail of the cavalry. Presently Harrod returns, greatly surprised at
Amory's sudden expedition, and curious as to the source from which he
derives his information. I hardly know what to say, but finally get out
of it by the explanation that it was all "confidential," and that I
could say nothing on the subject until his return.

On the drive home we come suddenly upon the troop itself, looking tired
and dusty, but returning from the two days' trip to Tishomingo partially
successful, and with six rough-looking specimens of "corn-crackers"
footing it along between the horsemen. They found no trace of Smith, the
marshal tells us, as the men go filing by; but, after all, their luck
has been good, and six of the worst characters are now securely under
guard.

The major, he tells us, had stopped at Judge Summers's, and expected to
find us there; so we whip up and hurry on.

A brisk drive brings us to the plantation in a very few minutes. As we
rattle up to the doorway, Harrod catches sight of Mr. Peyton lounging on
the portico by the open window of the parlor, for once in his life
paying little or no attention to Miss Kitty, who is seated on the old
wicker-work sofa, some distance from him, pouting and puzzled.

Harrod warns me to say not a word of Lieutenant Amory's expedition until
Peyton is out of the way. Old Jake detains him a moment about "dis yer
Hicks's mule done broke into the _gyarden_ las' night," and I move on
into the house.

In the parlor are the judge, Major Vinton, and Pauline; the first
listening, the second narrating, the third as complete a contrast to
Miss Kit as can be imagined. Vinton rises and greets me. He looks dusty,
tanned, and travel-stained, but more soldierly than ever in his
dark-blue jacket and heavy boots. After Harrod's entrance he resumes his
story,--he was telling of the capture of the Ku-Klux,--talking frankly
and as though none but friends were near. Harrod shifts uneasily in his
chair and glances nervously towards the window. Peyton is invisible,
but, beyond doubt, there, and a listener.

It is vain to attempt to warn the major; by this time Peyton knows the
whole story, knows who had aided the troops in their search, knows just
how the evidence was procured which led to the arrest of the six
victims, and doubtless his black-list is swelled by the addition of
several names destined to become the recipients of Ku-Klux attentions.

Lunch is announced, and we all sit down at the table, Peyton and Kit
coming in from the porch and endeavoring to ignore Major Vinton, a
circumstance which apparently renders him no uneasiness whatever. He
talks constantly with Pauline, and never gives a glance at the pair.
Harrod and I are nervous. I watch Peyton closely, and it requires no
penetration to see that not a word of Vinton's is lost on him.

Suddenly there comes the clatter of hoofs on the ground without; the
clank of a cavalry sabre, and, a moment after, the ring of spurred heels
along the hall. A servant announces the major's orderly; and, begging
the major not to rise, the judge directs that the trooper be shown in.

Just as I thought, it is Amory's letter.

"Sergeant Malone said that it was to be given the major directly he
returned. Them was the loot'nant's orders, and he told me to ride right
over with it, sir," says the orderly. And, apologizing to Miss Summers,
the Major opens it and begins to read.

I glance at Harrod; his eyes are fixed on Peyton; Peyton's furtively
watching Vinton. Another minute and Vinton has risen to his feet; an
eager, flashing light in his eyes, but his voice steady and calm as
ever, as he says,--

"Gallop back. Tell Sergeant Malone to send me a dozen men, armed and
mounted at once, and you bring my other horse." Away goes the orderly,
and then in reply to the wistful look of inquiry in Pauline's eyes, the
major says,--

"I must be off again. Amory has obtained information as to the
whereabouts of Smith and some of his gang, and has started after them,
but with only five men, too few to cope with such desperadoes. He has
four hours the start of me now, and 'twill be nearly five before my men
can get here; but I must reach him before he attempts to recross the
Tennessee."

I cannot be mistaken in Peyton's start of astonishment. Instantly his
face turns pale; the secret is out, his complicity perhaps detected.
Lunch is forgotten, and we all rise and leave the table. Harrod manages
to whisper a caution to the major to say nothing more while Peyton is
near, whereat Vinton looks vacant and aghast. Five minutes more and
Peyton and Kitty are missed,--gone out for a walk, the servant says.
Then Harrod explains, and Vinton looks as though biting his own tongue
off close to the roots would be the most congenial and exhilarating
recreation that could be suggested. He is annoyed beyond expression,
but it is too late now. Peyton is off; no one knows which way, and in
half an hour all the real or supposable Ku-Klux in the county will know
of the danger that threatens them; know, too, how small a force young
Amory has taken with him in his hurried raid to the Tennessee; and, ten
to one, if he succeed in capturing Smith, he cannot attempt to recross
the river without having to fight his way through.

All this is canvassed in the anxious council that ensues. No time is to
be lost; he must be reinforced at once. Harrod orders out his two
horses; old Jake is hastily summoned and told to bring up his charger,
"Bob"; and while the horses are being saddled, Vinton decides on his
plan. He and Harrod are to gallop on after Amory; old Jake to ride down
to meet the troopers, with orders to make all speed possible to the
Tennessee. I am possessed with an immediate thirst for human gore, and
want to go with the major; but there is no other horse, and I couldn't
ride without shaking myself to pieces and capsizing every hundred yards
or so if there were. To me, therefore, is assigned the cheerful duty of
remaining at the plantation and watching Peyton's movements should he
return.

Just before the horses are brought around, Kitty comes back, alone. She
looks white and scared, and hurries up the steps as though anxious to
avoid us, but Harrod intercepts and leads her to one side. She grows
paler as he questions and talks to her; and suddenly bursts into tears,
and rushes past him into the house.

"He's gone, by heaven!" says Harrod, as he rejoins us. "Kitty says he
took the overseer's horse and galloped off towards the north."

"Here, Jake," says Vinton, "waste no time now; ride as though the devil
chased you. Tell Sergeant Malone to follow as fast as he can. Don't
spare the horses!"

Jake makes a spring; lights on his stomach on old "Bob's" withers;
swings himself round; and barely waiting to get his seat, makes vigorous
play with both heels on his pet's astonished ribs, and with a "Yoop,
da!" our Ethiopian aide-de-camp clatters away. Then comes a hurried and
anxious leave-taking with Pauline and the judge, and in another minute
our two soldiers trot out to the road. We watch the gallant forms till
the riders disappear, and then turn silently away. Pauline's eyes are
dim with tears, and she seeks her own room.

That was a wretched afternoon and evening. Kitty never appeared. Pauline
came down to tea and tried to entertain me during the long hours that
dragged slowly away; but we started at every sound, and when midnight
came she retired altogether. We had hoped for news, but none reached
us.

The judge dozed fitfully in his easy-chair, but I was too much excited
to feel the least drowsiness; so, cigar in mouth, I strolled out to the
gate and gazed longingly up the dim, shadowy vista through the woods
where lay the road to the Tennessee along which our first news, good or
bad, must come.

Two o'clock came first, and I was then reading, in a distracted style,
in the library. The clocks had barely ceased striking when my eager ears
caught the sound of hoof-beats rapidly nearing us. Down went the book;
and in a minute I was at the gate, just in time to meet the horseman, a
corporal of Vinton's troop.

"We've got the Ku-Klux all right, sir," he says, as he reins in his
jaded steed, "but we had to fight half the county. The lieutenant's
wounded, and so is Monahan, one of the men, sir. They are bringing them
here, and I'm to ride right on for the doctor."

Off he goes before I can ask more. Pauline meets me as I return to the
hall. She is pale as death and her whole frame shakes as she says, "Tell
me everything, Mr. Brandon."

"Harrod and Vinton are safe; Amory and one of his men are hurt, and they
are bringing them here," I answer.

She saw by my face that there had been a fight. What her woman's heart
craved, was to know that those she loved were safe, unhurt, and
returning to her. Then the next minute she is all sympathy, all
tenderness, even, for our boy _sabreur_; and she occupies herself with
preparations for his reception and nursing.

While we are talking, who should come noiselessly down the stairs but
Kitty, dressed in a loose blue wrapper; her lovely hair falling down her
back and thrown from her temples and forehead, her eyes red with
weeping. Pauline's heart is full, and the sight of this sorrowing little
object is too much for her; she opens her arms and takes her to her
heart, and Kitty's sobs break out afresh.

"I _know_ that something has happened," she cries; "_do_ tell me. You
all think I care for Ned Peyton, but I _don't_--I _don't_! And he was
frightful to-day, and--and--if he did what he said he was going to do
I'll never speak to him again."

Pauline tries to comfort and soothe her, but I want to know what
Peyton's threat was; and have the unblushing hard-heartedness to ask.

"He declared that he would raise forty men and kill every man Lieutenant
Amory had with him. He frightened me so that I did not know what to do.
Oh, Paulie, _what_ has happened?"

"We don't know yet, Kitty. Harrod is bringing Mr. Amory here. He was
wounded, and there has been a fight, but we hope it was not serious."

Poor little Kit starts back in horror, and then sobs harder than ever.
It is impossible to comfort the child. She is possessed with the idea
that in some way or other she has been instrumental in bringing the
affair about. She is terrified at learning the part Peyton has played,
and bitterly reproaches herself for the uneasiness her flirtation had
caused us all. She is the most abject little penitent I ever saw, and
her distress is something overpowering to a susceptible old bachelor. In
the course of an hour she is persuaded to return to her room, but not
without the interchange of multitudinous embraces and kisses,--Pauline,
of course, being the party of the second part.

It is nearly daybreak when Harrod arrives, convoying a rusty old
carriage which he has obtained somewhere along the Tennessee; and from
this our young soldier is tenderly lifted by two of his troop and
carried to the room opposite mine in the wing. Poor fellow! it is hard
to recognize in the pallid, blood-stained, senseless form the gallant
young officer of the night on the train.

While the doctor was examining his hurts and dressing the wounds, Harrod
gave me a hurried account of what had happened. Amory had reached the
Tennessee about two in the afternoon, and, leaving his horses on the
south bank in charge of one man, crossed quickly and completely took
"Eustice's" with its precious garrison of desperadoes by surprise.
Luckily, Smith had but two of his gang with him. They hardly had time to
think of resistance. Hank was found stretched out in bed and swearing
cheerfully over the unexpected turn of affairs, but had sense enough to
acknowledge that his Yankee adversary "had the drop on him," and
surrendered at discretion. Securing him and his two chums, but leaving
the other inmates of "Eustice's" unmolested, Amory in less than an hour
and a half landed his party once more on the south bank, and, after
procuring food for his men and horses and resting another hour, started
on the back-track about five in the evening; moving slowly, as his
horses were jaded and his three prisoners had to foot it.

Their road was bordered by thick woods, and ran through an almost
uninhabited tract. Hank was suffering apparently a great deal of pain
from the fever of his wound, and, after sullenly plodding along about a
mile, began showing signs of great distress. He was offered a horse, but
declared that riding would hurt him just as much, and finally stopped
short, swearing that "Ef you un's expects to git me to yer d--d camp
this yer night you've got to do a heap of toting." Finding that he was
really weak and sick, Amory was too soft-hearted to insist; and so a
brief halt was ordered while one of the men went in search of a
farm-wagon. Just at night-fall a horseman came cantering rapidly up the
road, at sight of whom the prisoners exchanged quick, eager glances of
intelligence, and attempted to spring to their feet and attract his
attention. No sooner, however, had he espied the party than he stopped
short; reined his horse about; and, digging spur into him, disappeared
at a gallop into the shadows of the forest.

The whole thing was so sudden that no pursuit was made. Ten minutes
after, there came the distant sound of a shrill, prolonged whistle, and
Amory, thoroughly aroused, ordered a mount and immediate start.

Strange to say, Hank moved on with great alacrity. No man ever rose from
so brief a rest so thoroughly invigorated. Once or twice more the same
whistle was heard, but nothing could be seen, as darkness had set in.

Silently and anxiously the little party moved on, Amory riding several
yards in advance, peering cautiously about and listening eagerly to
every sound. All of a sudden from thick darkness came blinding
flashes,--the ringing reports of musketry and pistols, and the regular
old-time rebel yell.

Amory reeled. His horse reared wildly, and then, with a snort of terror,
plunged down the road; his rider dragging over his side.

Of the next five minutes, none of the men could give a collected
account. The sergeant had done his duty well, however; had kept his men
together; and, what with superior discipline and the rapid fire from
their magazine carbines, his little party proved too plucky for their
assailants. There was a sound of scrambling and scattering among the
shrubbery and of clambering over the rail-fence by the roadside. The
fire suddenly ceased and the troopers were masters of the situation.
During the excitement, one of the prisoners had managed to crawl off;
while Hank and the other specimen adopted the tactics of throwing
themselves flat on their faces. The soldiers were eager to pursue and
capture some of the band; but the sergeant was wary and cautious; kept
them on the defensive; secured his two remaining prisoners; and was just
about ordering a search for their lieutenant, when the well-known and
welcome voice of the major was heard down the road, and in a moment he
and Harrod dashed up to the spot. Then came eager inquiries and the
search for Amory; and presently a cry from one of the men announced that
he was found. Hurrying to the spot, they discovered him, bleeding,
bruised, and senseless, by the roadside; one deep gash was cut on his
forehead, from which the blood was oozing rapidly; a bullet-hole and a
little red streak in the shoulder of his jacket told where one at least
of the ambuscading villains had made his mark; while the moan of pain
that followed when they strove tenderly to raise him from the ground
proved that our boy was suffering from still other injuries; but for all
that, thank God! alive, perhaps safe.

It was long before the men could find a farm-house; longer still before
they came in with the lumbering old rattletrap of a carriage which their
major had directed them to secure at any cost; and all this time poor
Amory lay with his head on Vinton's lap, utterly unconscious of the
latter's grief, of his almost womanly tenderness; but at last they were
able to lift him into the improvised ambulance; and while the troopers,
now reinforced by the small party which had followed Vinton, took charge
of the prisoners, with orders to turn them over to the marshal at
Sandbrook, the others drove carefully and slowly homewards, and so once
more Mars was in our midst,--now our pet and hero.

All night long we watched him. All next day he tossed in feverish
delirium; and when night came, Vinton and Pauline were bending over him
striving to soothe and calm the boy in his restless pain. He spoke but
little. Muttered words, half-broken sentences, incoherent all of them,
were the only things we could win from him. He knew none of us; though
he appeared to recognize Vinton's voice better than any. At last, late
in the evening, when the doctor had forced an anodyne between his set
teeth, Amory's muscles relaxed, he threw his unwounded arm wearily over
his face and murmured, "I give up,--I'm whipped."

Vinton could hardly help smiling. "He thinks himself in one of his old
cadet fights," said he. "Those fellows at West Point settle all
difficulties with their fists, and this youngster was eternally in some
row or other; he'd fight the biggest man in the corps on the slightest
provocation."

We were all wearied with watching, and it was a glad sight when our
pugilistic patient dropped off into a deep sleep. Vinton had to go back
to camp to look after his men. Harrod was tired out and had sought his
room. I had agreed to sit by Amory's bedside until midnight, as they had
expelled me from the sick-room and made me sleep all morning "on account
of age." Pauline was just giving a smoothing touch to the pillows when
the door softly opened and who should come in but Kitty.

Yes, Kitty, our rampant little rebel Kit, who but a few days before had
seen fit to snub our wounded boy simply because he was a "Yank" and wore
the uniform which Uncle Sam has condemned his men-at-arms to suffer in.
But how changed was Kitty now! Once or twice during the day she had
stolen to the door or waylaid Pauline in the halls, always with a white,
tear-stained, anxious face and a wistful inquiry as to how Mr. Amory was
doing; then she would creep lonely and homesick back to her room;
probably have a good long cry; and then down-stairs again for still
another and later bulletin.

She had smoothed back her soft golden hair now; bathed away all but a
few traces of the tears that had flown so copiously during the last
thirty-six hours; and in her simple yet daintily-fitting dress, looked
more womanly, more gentle and attractive, than I had ever seen her.

Walking quietly up to us, she put her little white hand on Pauline's
shoulder, saying,--

"You go now, Paulie; it's my turn. You've all been working here and
_must_ be tired and sleepy. I'm going to play nurse now." And for a
minute the corners of the pretty mouth twitch, and the soft-gray eyes
fill, as though our little heroine were again on the verge of a relapse
into lamentation. Pauline's arm is round her in an instant, and she
draws her close to her bosom as she says,--

"It is just like you, darling; I knew you would want to come." And then
follows the invariable exchange of caresses so indispensable among
tender-hearted young ladies on such occasions. Not that I disapprove of
it. Oh, no! Only one can hardly expect to be "counted out" from all
participation in such ceremonies and yet stand by and look on with
unmoved and unenvying complacency.

Ten minutes more and Pauline has gone, with a good-night to both. The
judge comes in and bends with almost fatherly interest over the sleeping
boy; and as Kitty seats herself quietly by the bedside, goes round and
kisses her, saying, "You are more like your dear mother to-night than I
ever saw you."

Kit looks up in his face without a word, but in affection that is
eloquent in itself. Then her little hand busies itself about the bandage
on Amory's forehead, and my occupation is gone. Leaving her to attend to
that, the judge and I seat ourselves at the open fireplace, waking and
dozing alternately.

The doctor pronounced him better when he came next morning to dress the
wounds. Mars spent most of the time in sleeping. Never did patient meet
with care and attention more tender, more constant. Either Pauline or
Kit was at his bedside. The old judge would come in with every hour or
so. Vinton galloped over from camp and spent the afternoon; and as for
myself, I was becoming vastly interested in helping Kitty, when, as bad
luck would have it, old Jake brought me what he termed a "tallygraff"
when he came back from Sandbrook late at evening with the mail; and the
tallygraff sent me hurrying back to Holly Springs by first train the
following day.

It was with no satisfaction whatever that I bade them all adieu; though
my heart lightened up when the doctor reported our "sub" improving. We
all thought he recognized Vinton when the latter arrived in the morning
to drive over with me.

We all thought, too, that a week at the utmost would bring me back with
them in time to resume my functions as assistant nurse; but it was fully
a month before my business could be completed, and by that time no
further occasion existed for my services.

"We've had quite a little series of adventures, major," said I, as we
whirled along towards the station, "and for one, _I_ shouldn't be
surprised if a spice of romance were to be thrown in; a love-affair, in
fact. What do you think?"

Vinton knocked the ashes off his cigar on the dash-board; replaced his
cigar between his teeth with great deliberation; smiled very quietly,
not to say suggestively, to himself; gave a tug or two at his moustache,
and then said,--

"Amory and Miss Kit you mean. Well,--I can't say. To tell the truth,
I've been thinking for some time past that he has left his heart up
North somewhere,--some old West Point affair, you know; writes long
letters every now and then, and won't let me see the address; drops them
in the postal-car himself, instead of sending them by the company mail;
gets a dainty missive now and then, lady's handwriting, pretty
monogram; and blushes, too, when I 'devil' him about Syracuse; they are
postmarked from there. May not amount to much, of course. These
youngsters get into that sentimental sort of vein at the Academy and
seem to think it the correct thing to be spoony over somebody all the
time."

That struck me as being a long speech for Vinton, a man of few words
ordinarily. It occurred to me, too, that he was suspicious of his _own_
affair's being the one to which I referred, and wanted to head me off.
Oh, the perversity of human nature! _That_ made me press the point and
return to the subject. (Pauline afterwards said it was the meanest thing
I ever did in my life. How little she knew me!)

"Don't dash my expectations in that way, Vinton. If Amory and Miss Kit
don't carry out my plan and fall in love, I'll have to fall back upon
you and Miss Pauline, you know; and just imagine how the judge and
Harrod would feel at having to give her up. Besides, old fellow, you and
I are cut out for confirmed old bachelors. Can't expect a young and
attractive girl like her, who could marry anybody, to settle down to an
_un_settled and nomadic existence in the army; that's altogether too
much for so little, don't you see?"

"Job's comforters" would have proven a dead failure in comparison with
that effort. It _was_ mean, but there was something exhilarating about
it for all that. What man, raised in a large family of sisters, doesn't
grow up as I was raised,--a tease?

Vinton is too old a campaigner, however, and sees my game; grins
expressively, and behaves with commendable nonchalance.

"I'll put the matter in train when I get back, Brandon, and try and
arrange it between the young people to your satisfaction, so that you
won't have to fall back on anything so utterly problematical as the
other suggestion." That was all he had to say on the subject.

We reached Sandbrook; the train came; and in a moment more I was
standing on the rear platform watching the tall, stalwart, soldierly
form that waved me good-by, growing dim and dimmer in the distance.

That night found me at Holly Springs and in consultation with the United
States marshal and the commanding officer of the little garrison of
infantrymen. To the care of the last named, our captured Ku-Klux had
been turned over, together with a few more of their fraternity, recent
acquisitions, one of whom, the marshal informed me, was badly wounded
and in hospital. He had been arrested the day after the ambuscade at a
farm-house within five miles of the spot, and duly forwarded to join his
Klan at their new and much anathematized rendezvous.

On my expressing a desire to see him, the captain obligingly conducted
me into the neat little hospital-tent, only a few steps from his own;
and there, stretched out at full length, with a bandaged shoulder and a
woe-begone countenance, was my missionary friend--Stiggins.

It was easy enough to conjecture how he came by his wound, though his
own statement of the occurrence had surrounded him with a halo of
martyrdom up to the time of my arrival. Stiggins had stoutly maintained
that the Ku-Klux had shot him; that he was a law-abiding man, and that
he hadn't seen a blue-coated soldier since the war. But when Stiggins
caught sight of me he looked very much as though he had been lying, and
in all human probability he had.

I said nothing to the officers on the subject until afterwards; when, in
examining the articles which were in his possession at the time of his
arrest, I came across a letter written in a hand I knew well enough,
appointing a meeting with one J. Bostwick, and signed "Peyton." It was
dated the night Harrod and Master Ned arrived at the plantation.

Stiggins swore he didn't know Peyton; never had seen him; "that note
didn't belong to him nohow," and lied with a volubility and earnestness
that would have done credit to a Jew in a clothing-store. But no
information as to Peyton's whereabouts could be extracted from him or
his unwounded confederates; nor could they be induced to give any clue
which might lead to his implication. Whatever they were otherwise, they
were game to the backbone; and stood by one another throughout their
captivity and the trial which followed.

Hank Smith we found domiciled in the prison room where the gang were
cooped up. He carried his arm in a sling, and a bed had been provided
for his especial accommodation. He was surly and defiant, but accepted a
piece of plug tobacco with much avidity, and was kind enough to say that
"'Twould be a derned sight better if you handed over a bottle of whiskey
with it," which sentiment was unanimously concurred in by the assembled
delegates, but vetoed by the captain.

Two weeks passed away, and still was I detained. Then came a summons to
Jackson, where the State Legislature was in session. I had written to
the judge and to Vinton. The former had been called South on business,
but while at Jackson the latter's reply reached me,--a long, and for
him, gossipy letter.

Amory was rapidly recovering, and the moment he was well enough to be
moved--in fact, as soon as he had his ideas about him--had insisted on
being carried to camp. It was in vain that Harrod, Pauline, and Vinton
had protested; go he would. No persuasions could induce him to remain
where he was a burden and a care to them. Kitty had taken no part in
the discussion, and had been but little in the sick-room after he had
recognized her; but the poor child was possessed with the idea that he
was determined to go simply on her account, and was very miserable in
consequence. As a last resort, Pauline, "for whom he has a warm
affection," had communicated this fact to her intractable patient, and
his pale face had flushed up for an instant and he was at a loss what to
say, but finally protested that it had nothing to do with his
determination. That evening he asked to see her, and, in an embarrassed
but earnest way, thanked her for nursing him so kindly and carefully.
"I'll never forget how good you--you all were to me, Miss Carrington."
And from that time until the ambulance came for him, two days after,
whenever she chanced to come to the room he was very gentle, and in his
whole manner seemed anxious to show her that not an atom of resentment
or annoyance remained. "Somehow or other there's something wrong,"
Vinton wrote. "I can't get her to look or talk like her old self; she
won't cheer up, and whenever she is in the room both of them are nervous
and embarrassed, and though Miss Summers and I have striven to get them
into conversation when the doctor would let him talk, it's of no use."
Oh, the subtlety of feminine influence! Fancy Vinton in the _rôle_ of
match-maker! And so Amory was back again among his men, rapidly
improving, but still, as Vinton said, "something was wrong."

Nothing had been heard from or of Peyton except an order for his trunk
and personal effects, brought to the colonel by a total stranger. It was
conjectured, however, that the judge had gone to Mobile during his trip,
and that his troublesome kinsman was to be shipped off to climes where
Ku-Klux were unknown, and where his propensities for mischief would have
no field for operation. No further complaints of outrages or disorders;
everything was quiet and peaceful, and men and horses were having a good
rest.



CHAPTER V.


One bright, beautiful evening late in February, it was my good fortune
to find myself once more within "twenty minutes of Sandbrook"; this time
on no hurried visit, but with the deliberate intention of accepting the
cordial invitation of the judge and Harrod to spend a month with them. I
was to make their home my headquarters while attending to the limited
amount of law business that called me to that vicinity. I had heard
several times from the plantation since Vinton's letter, and the very
last news I had received was penned by Miss Pauline's own fair hand,
telling me in a sweet, happy, womanly letter of what neither you, who
have had patience enough to read this, nor I could be in the least
degree surprised to learn,--her engagement to Major Vinton. The major
himself, she wrote, had been summoned as a witness before a
court-martial, and would be gone several days, but back in time to
welcome me. Then came a page about Amory: "He has entirely recovered;
that is to say, he is as strong and active as ever; but still--I don't
know how to express it exactly--he is not the same man he was before
that night. You know that the wound in his shoulder was a very slight
one, and that his injuries were mainly shocks and bruises received by
being thrown and dragged by his wounded horse. When he was well enough
to drive about, the major used to bring him here frequently; and I
really thought that he and Kitty were going to become great friends, for
they wore off much of the old embarrassment and seemed to be getting
along so nicely. Then he used to ride over and spend entire afternoons
with us; and then, all of a sudden, he stopped coming; only visits us
now when he _has_ to; and is so changed, so constrained and moody that I
don't know what to make of it. I really believe that Kitty was growing
to like him ever so much; and she wonders, I know, at this sudden
change. Even when he _does_ come he avoids and barely looks at her."

It was strange; and I puzzled over it for some time. Matchmaking was
hardly in my line of business, yet no spinster aunt could have taken
more interest in the affair than myself. I was really anxious to get
back to the plantation and see what could be made of it.

Harrod and the carriage were at the station to meet me, and a rapid
drive in the cool night air soon brought us to the dear old house again;
and there on the broad piazza, in the broad, cheerful stream of light
from the hall, stood the judge, Vinton, and Pauline; and in a moment I
had sprung from the carriage and was receiving their warm and charming
welcome. Vinton was as happy in his quiet, undemonstrative way as man
could be, and the fond, proud light in his dark eyes as he looked down
at the graceful form leaning so trustfully upon his arm, was a sight
that made me envious. Presently Kitty came down; but not the Kitty of
old. Ah! little girl, what is it that has made those soft eyes so heavy,
so sad? What has taken all the color from those round, velvety cheeks?
What has become of the ringing, light-hearted laugh that came bubbling
up from heart-springs that seemed inexhaustible in their freshness,
their gladness? It is of no use to smile and chatter and prate about
your pleasure at seeing this antiquarian again. It is of no use to toss
your little head and look at me with something of the old coquettish
light in your eyes. You can't deceive me, little Kit; you are changed,
sadly changed. I, who have been away so long a time, can see what others
only partially notice.

During the evening we all gathered in the parlor, talking over the
events of my previous visit. Kitty had early tired of any share in the
conversation, and sat silent and absent, taking little heed of what was
said, though once or twice, when we were not speaking of Amory, she
rallied for a moment and made an effort. She had taken a chair near the
window, and was more than half the time gazing dreamily out towards the
road. At last Vinton said he must get back to camp, bade us all
good-night; his orderly came round with the horses, and Pauline went out
to see him off, everybody else just at that particular moment finding
something of extreme interest which detained him or her in the parlor.

It is odd how long it takes to say good-night under those circumstances.
Fully fifteen minutes elapsed before the spurred boot-heels were heard
going down the steps; then there was another slight detention,--cause,
unknown; time, three minutes and a half,--and finally the clatter of
hoofs as they rode off, twenty-seven minutes by the clock after the time
when the major had announced that he must be off at once,--couldn't stay
another minute.

When the hoof-beats had died away, Pauline came back to us radiant,
lovely; and even that tease Harrod could not find it in his heart to say
one word on the subject of the major's unaccountable display of
unmilitary tardiness, though he looked vastly as though he would like
to. Good-nights were exchanged, and soon after I found myself cosily
ensconced in my old quarters in the wing.

About noon on the following day Mars trotted up the road, and, throwing
his horse's rein over the gate-post, came "clinking" up the walk. His
heels were decorated with a pair of huge Mexican spurs, with little
pendants of steel attached to the rowels in such a way as to cause a
jingling with every movement. I had gone out on the piazza to meet him,
and he quickened his pace and waved his cap with a cheery "How are you,
Mr. Brandon?" the moment he caught sight of me. As he sprang up the
steps I saw that he had at least lost none of his old activity; and
though thinner and a trifle paler than when I first met him, it was not
at first glance noticeable.

After the excitement of our meeting was over, however, and we were
chatting over the Ku-Klux entertainments, I noticed how soon he became
just the restless, absent, constrained fellow that Pauline had
described. He changed color and started every time a footstep was heard
in the hall; greeted Pauline warmly when she came down, and seemed to be
more himself when talking with her, but even then his eyes wandered to
the doorway. Something was wanting; and at last he made a vigorous
effort and stammered an inquiry as to "Miss Carrington's" health.

"Kitty is pretty well, and will be down in a minute. She was writing to
Aunt Mary when you came. If I were Kitty _I_ wouldn't come down to see
you at all, Mr. Frank Amory, for you've not been near us for the last
ten days, and I presume we owe this call entirely to Mr. Brandon."

Poor fellow! he fidgets and looks woe-begone enough; tries hard to plead
constant duties, no lack of inclination, etc., and just in the midst of
it all, the rustle of skirts and the patter of quick, light footsteps is
heard in the hall, and Frank Amory starts up with the flush deepening on
his cheek and forehead, and stands facing the doorway as little Kit
comes in,--comes in with a face that flushes deeply as his own, with
eyes that are raised to his but for one brief second and then seek any
other object but the young soldier before her, with a nervous,
fluttering reply to his "Good-morning, Miss Carrington; I hope you're
well?" and finally, as she subsides into an arm-chair by the window,
with an air of mingled relief and apprehension that puzzles me
inexpressibly. Amory, meantime, has resumed his seat (on his forage-cap
this time), and plunged hastily into a description of a marvellous horse
they have just concluded to purchase for officers' use. He must be a
marvel; and it is astonishing what an amount of interest Frank takes in
telling Pauline all about his performances. Kitty sits by the window
listening, but saying not a word; and after this sort of thing has been
kept up some twenty minutes Pauline excuses herself.

"Now don't go till I come back, Frank; I'll only be gone a few minutes."
And with a glance at me that seems, as Mark Twain says, "perfectly
luminous with meaning" to her, but which in my masculine stupidity I
fail to comprehend until some minutes after, that young lady makes her
exit. Then Mars turns upon me, utterly absorbed in the same horse, and
with distracting volubility tells me the same rigmarole he told Pauline,
every word of which I had heard. Then he asks questions about Hank Smith
that he had asked three or four times already, and just as I'm beginning
to wonder whether his accident had not resulted in permanent injury to
his mental faculties a servant appears at the door.

"Miss Summers says will Mr. Brandon please come and help her a minute."
And as Mr. Brandon obligingly rises to comply with her request, Amory
springs up too, whips out his watch, and exclaims,--

"By Jove! how time flies! I told Vinton I'd be back for afternoon
stables,--_must_ be off! Good-by, Mr. Brandon; come over to camp and see
us. Good-by, Miss Carrington; sorry I have to hurry." And out he goes;
clatters down the steps and back to his horse; throws the reins over the
animal's head, and vaults into his saddle; and then, with one wave of
his hand, dashes off at a mad gallop.

I turned again into the house, and this is what I saw in the parlor.
Kitty Carrington, all alone, standing there at the window gazing after
Amory as he disappeared down the road; her tiny white hands tightly
clinching the window-sill; two great big tears just starting from each
eye and trickling slowly, heavily down her cheeks; her dainty form
quivering with emotion. Little by little I am beginning to suspect the
truth in the matter, and, as I turn softly away without attracting her
attention, mentally resolve to unearth the whole secret. Pretty business
for a man of my years, you will say, but "we lawyers are curious."

N.B.--Pauline didn't want me at all. It was a ruse to get me away.

For the next three days matters went on in pretty much the same groove.
Amory came over to dinner once and was utterly absurd,--handed Miss Kit
to her chair, took his allotted place beside her; and hardly addressed
one word to her through the entire repast, though he gabbled unceasingly
to every one else. Just as soon as we could finish our cigars after
dinner, and an adjournment was moved to the parlor, he declared he must
be off; said he had a whole heap of commissary returns to make up before
morning; and, with the briefest possible good-night to the ladies and
the judge, away he went.

Pauline looked puzzled, Vinton amused, and Kitty--out of the window.

That night Mr. G. S. Brandon, who has already played too inquisitive a
part in this little affair, resolved, before closing his eyes for a
good, old-fashioned sleep, that he might as well be hanged for a sheep
as a lamb, and pry still further; but he never dreamed how odd would be
the solution.



CHAPTER VI.


The next day Harrod Summers and I drove over to the cavalry camp to see
Amory. It was a crisp, cheery morning, just enough wintry rime in earth
and air and sky to make rapid motion a keen delight. As we neared the
spot, the mellow notes of the trumpet came floating on the breeze, and
as we rounded a bend in the road, we came in sight of the troop itself
trotting across a broad open field. Mars was taking advantage of the
glorious weather to brush up on company drill, and we had arrived just
in time to see it.

It was a very pretty, stirring sight to my eyes; for the dash and spirit
of the manoeuvres were new to a man whose martial associations had
been confined to the curbstones of Broadway, barring that blistering
march from Annapolis to the railway, and the month of _fêted_ soldiering
at the capital and Camp Cameron in '61. Harrod gazed at it all with
professional calm; occasionally giving some brief and altogether too
technical explanation of evolutions that were beyond my comprehension.
But the one thing which struck me most forcibly was that, though
frequently trotting or galloping close to where we sat in the buggy,
Mr. Frank Amory never took the faintest notice of us. His whole
attention was given to his troop and the drill; and with flashing sabre
and animated voice, he darted here and there on his big chestnut sorrel,
shouting, exhorting, and on occasion excitedly swearing at some
thick-headed trooper; but for all the notice he took of us we might as
well have been back at home.

"Rather a cool reception," said I, "considering the youngster was so
anxious we should come over."

"Why, that's all right," said Harrod. "It is a breach of military
propriety to hold any kind of communication with lookers-on when a
fellow's at drill or on parade."

And yet to my civilian notions this struck me as being uncivil. Less
than a month afterwards I saw the same young fellow sit like a statue on
his horse, and never give the faintest sign of recognition when the girl
I knew he--well, that's anticipating--when a party of ladies were driven
in carriages past his troop, so close to his horse's nose as to
seriously discomfit that quadruped, and one of the young ladies was Miss
Carrington. To my undisciplined faculties that sort of thing was
incomprehensible. I looked on at the drill for a while, wondering how in
the world those fellows could manage to keep their seats in the saddle
without grabbing the pommel, when Harrod remarked that he believed he
would go on into the village to attend to some business, and leave me at
Amory's tent until he returned. Of course I could only assent; and in
another moment I was landed in front of the tent which had become so
fixed a picture "in my mind's eye" since the afternoon Mr. Stiggins rode
in to inquire where the lieutenant and his people had gone. A darky boy
officiously brushed off the seat of a camp-chair, saying that "Mos' like
drill'd be over in ten minutes." So I sat me down under the canvas to
wait.

Amory's tent was not luxurious. It was one of the simple variety known
as the "wall" tent, so called probably because for three feet from the
ground the sides are vertical and give more room than the "A" tents of
the rank and file. A camp-cot occupied one side; a canvas-covered trunk
stood at the head. Then on the other side of the tent was a rude
field-desk, perched on four legs; the pigeon-holes crammed with
portentous-looking blanks and papers, and the lid lowered to a
horizontal. On this lay a square of blotting-paper, covered with
ink-dabs and some stray papers, an ungainly inkstand, and one or two
scattered pens and holders. A looking-glass about the size of one's face
was swung on the front pole. A rude washstand was placed near the foot
of the bed. A swinging pole, hung under the ridge-pole of the tent,
constituted the wardrobe or clothes-closet of the occupant, and from
this several garments were pendent. There was no tent floor; the bare
ground was the carpet; and but for one little table the abode would have
been rude in the extreme as the habitation of a civilized being. The
table in question stood at the entrance of the tent, under the "fly" or
awning spread in front. A couple of pipes with brier-root stems lay
thereon, and a jar of tobacco. But in an easel-frame of soft velvet, a
frame rich and handsome, conspicuously so in contrast with all the
surroundings, was a photograph--cabinet-size--of a woman's face. It was
not there on the occasion of my first visit, nor was the table. But
there sat the picture, the first thing one would notice in entering the
tent; and, having nothing else to do, I proceeded to examine it.

A sweet, placid, sorrow-worn face; eyes whose wrinkled lids spoke of
age, but yet looked calmly, steadfastly into mine. Scanty hair, yet
rippling over the brows and temples as though indicating that in years
gone by the tresses had been full and luxuriant. Scanty hair, tinged
with many a streak of gray, and carried back of the ears in a fashion
suggestive of the days that long preceded the war,--the days when Jenny
Lind entranced us all at Castle Garden (though I claim to have been but
a boy then); when Mario and Grisi were teaching us Knickerbockers the
beauties of Italian opera; when Count D'Orsay was the marvel of
metropolitan society; when daguerreotypes were first introduced along
Broadway. All these I thought of as I looked into this placid face, so
refined in its every line; marking, too, that at the throat was clasped
a portrait in plain gold frame, the inevitable indication that the
wearer was of Southern birth, for none but our Southern women wear thus
outwardly the portraits of those they love and have lost. The picture
fascinated me; it was so sweet, so simple, so homelike; and, as I stood
with it in my hands, I could plainly see the strong likeness between the
features and those of my plucky young hero, whom I was half ready to be
indignant with for ignoring me ten minutes before. His mother I knew it
to be at a glance.

Just then came an orderly bearing a packet of letters. To my intense
gratification--I don't know why--he saluted with his unoccupied hand as
he said, "Letters for the lieutenant, sir." Was it possible that he
thought I might be some staff-officer? He could not--that is, he would
not, had he ever seen me straddle a horse--suppose me to be a
cavalryman. Perhaps he had heard I was with the lieutenant the night he
nabbed Hank Smith; perhaps he--why, perhaps they--the troop--had heard I
had charged through the woods to his support. Well, I took with
dignified calm the bundle of letters he handed me, and endeavored to
look the suppositious character and place them carelessly on the table,
when the superscription of the very first one attracted my attention.
The writing was strangely familiar. There were four letters,--two
"official," long and heavy; two personal, and evidently of feminine
authorship. It was my business to lay them on the table. I did nothing
of the kind. Holding the package in both hands, I sat stupidly staring
at the topmost letter,--a tiny, dainty affair,--and striving to come
back from dream-land. Where had I seen that superscription before? There
stood the address, "Lieut. Frank Amory, --th U.S. Cavalry, Sandbrook
Station, Memphis and Charleston R. R., Alabama," every letter as
perfectly traced as though by the hand of an engraver; every i dotted,
every t crossed, every capital having its due proportion, every letter
wellnigh perfect. The superscription itself was a chirographic marvel.
The writing was simply beautiful, and I had seen it before. It was
familiar to me, or at least _had_ been well known. Pondering over it, I
gazed, of course, at the postmark: a mere blur. Something or some place
in New York was all I could make out before it suddenly occurred to me
that the whole thing was none of my business anyhow. I set the packet
down on the table and strove to shut it from my mind; but there that
letter lay on top, staring me in the face; I could not keep my eyes
from it. I turned, picked it up and placed it on the desk inside the
tent; dropped a handkerchief that was lying there over it; and returned
to my place under the fly. I wanted to keep it out of my sight.

Presently, the bustle and laughter among the tents of the soldiers near
me gave warning that the troop had come in from drill. The next moment,
as I was again holding and looking at the picture in the velvet frame,
Mars came springily forward, his sabre and spurs clinking with every
stride. He pulled off his gauntlet, and held out his hand with a cheery
and cordial "So glad to see you, Mr. Brandon," and then, as I was about
to apologize for taking liberties with his belongings, he said,--and how
can I throw into the words the tremulous tenderness of his voice?--

"That's mother. My birthday present. It only came a few days ago, and I
like to have it out here with me."

And the boy took it from my hands, and stood for a moment, all glowing
as he came from his rapid drill, and with the beads of perspiration on
his face, and looked fondly at it.

"It's the only decent picture I ever had of her, and, somehow, it almost
seems as though she were here now. That Ku-Klux business upset her
completely, and the blessed little mother wants me to pull out and
resign; but I can't do that."

"I have been admiring it for some time, Mr. Amory. The face attracted me
at once, and it was easy to see the family resemblance. May I ask where
your mother is living now?"

"In Boston now, but I think she longs to come South again. The North
never seemed home to her. Father was in the old army. Perhaps Vinton has
told you. He was killed at Fredericksburg, at the head of his brigade;
and my uncle, mother's younger brother, died of wounds received in the
same fight." Amory's voice faltered a little and his color brightened.
"Of course they were on opposite sides," he added, in a lower tone.

I bowed silently. Nothing seemed the appropriate thing to say just then.
Presently Amory went on:

"You see I'm about all she has left in the world,--her only son. And
when husband and brother were both taken from her at one fell swoop, it
made it hard to let me take up father's profession; but it was always
his wish, and the only thing I'm fit for, I reckon."

"Do Yankees habitually say 'I reckon'?" I asked, by way of lightening up
the rather solemn tone of the conversation.

Mars laughed. "Why," said he, "I'm more than half Southern; born in
North Carolina, and spending much of my boyhood there at mother's old
home. They used to call me 'reb' the whole time I was a cadet. It is a
wonder I wasn't an out-and-out 'reb' too. All mother's people were, and
they never have been reconciled to her for sticking to father and his
side of the question. Poor little mother," he added, while the tears
gathered in his eyes, "she _is_ alone in the world if ever woman was,
and I sometimes wonder if I ought not to yield to her wishes and go and
be a clerk of some kind."

All the glow, all the life that possessed him as he came in fresh from
the exercise of his drill seemed to have left Mars by this time. He was
profoundly sad and depressed. That was plainly to be seen. Hoping to
find something as a distraction to his gloomy reflections, I called his
attention to the mail that had arrived during his absence. He moved
negligently towards the desk, raised the handkerchief with weary
indifference, and glanced at the packet underneath. Instantly his whole
manner changed; the color sprang to his face; his eyes flamed, and a
nervous thrill seemed to shoot through his frame. Paying no attention to
the others, he had seized the dainty missive that so excited my
curiosity, and with a hand that plainly shook tore it open, turned his
back to me with the briefest "Excuse me one minute," and was speedily so
absorbed in the letter that he never noticed me as I rose and strolled
out to the front of the tent and the bright wintry sunshine beyond. The
boy needed to be alone.

Fully fifteen minutes passed by before he rejoined me, coming out with a
quick, nervous step, and a face that had grown white and almost old in
that time. What _could_ be wrong with him?

"Mr. Brandon, I beg your pardon for being so inhospitable. My letters
were important, and--and rather a surprise, one of them. It is just
about noon. May I offer you a toddy? It's the best I can do."

Mr. Brandon, to the scandal of his principles, decided that on this
occasion he would accept the proffered refreshment. It seemed to be a
relief to Mars. He bustled about, getting sugar and glasses and some
fresh spring water; then speedily tendering me a goblet, produced a
black bottle from his trunk.

"Shall I pour for you?" said he. "Say when." And in a moment the juice
of the rye and other less harmful ingredients were mingled with the
sweetened water.

"You will excuse me," said he. "I never touch it, except--well, that
drink I took the night on the train after our tussle with Smith is the
only one I've taken since I joined the troop. I promised mother, Mr.
Brandon."

The reader has already discovered that Mr. Brandon could readily make a
sentimental idiot of himself on slight provocation. Hearing these words
of Mr. Amory's and the renewed allusion to the mother who filled so big
a place in the boy's heart, Mr. Brandon deposited his glass on the table
and held out his hand; took that of the surprised young soldier; gave it
a cordial grip; made an abortive attempt to say something neat and
appropriate; and broke abruptly off at the first word. Then Harrod came
back.

"Brandon," said he, "there's the mischief to pay in New Orleans. I've
just received the papers, and it looks as though there would be riot and
bloodshed with a vengeance."

"What's up now?" I asked, with vivid interest.

"It seems to be a breaking out of the old row. Two legislatures, you
know, and a double-headed executive. More troops are ordered there."

I eagerly took the paper and read the headlines. The same old story,
only worse and more of it. The State-house beleaguered; the metropolitan
police armed with Winchesters and manning a battery; the citizens
holding indignation meetings and organizing for defence against usurping
State government; two riots on Canal Street, and a member of one
legislature shot down by the sergeant-at-arms of the other; a great mob
organizing to attack the governor and the State-house, etc., etc. It all
looked familiar enough. I had seen the same thing but a short time
before. It was simply a new eruption of the old volcano, but a grave
one, unless I utterly misjudged the indications.

"Amory," said Harrod, "mount your horse and come over to dinner with us.
Mr. Brandon and I must go back, for there are matters in the mail which
require my attention at once."

But Amory said he could not leave. In Vinton's absence he felt that he
ought to stick to camp. We drove back as we came.

Both the young ladies were on the gallery when we drove up. Harrod shook
his head in response to the look of inquiry in Pauline's eyes.

"Not back yet, and no news of him,--unless--unless--there should be
something in this letter," said he, with provoking gravity and
deliberation, as he felt in every pocket of his garments in apparently
vain search, while the quizzical look in his face proclaimed that he was
purposely reserving the right pocket for the last.

Miss Summers stood with exemplary patience and outstretched hand. At
last the eagerly-expected letter was produced, and Harrod and I went in
to talk over the startling tidings from New Orleans. The next moment we
heard Pauline's rapid step in the hall and ascending the stairs; heard
her go hurriedly to her room and close the door, Harrod looked puzzled
and a little worried.

"I hope there is no bad news from Vinton," he said. "That rush to her
room is unlike her." Then the swish of Kitty's skirts was heard. Harrod
stepped out and spoke some words to her in a low tone. Her reply was
anxious and startled in its hurried intonation, but the words were
indistinct.

"She says Pauline did not read her letter through at all, but sprang up
with tears in her eyes and merely said she must run up-stairs a few
minutes. What do you suppose is wrong?"

Of course I had no explanation to offer. Pauline did not return for an
hour. When she again appeared she was very pale and quiet. Harrod
meantime had taken a horse and ridden off to Sandbrook, where he wanted
to reach the telegraph-office. It was late in the evening when he
returned. I had been reading in the library for some time while the
ladies were at the piano. He strode into the hall and stood at the
parlor-door.

"Pauline, did the major tell you in his letter?" he asked.

"Tell me what?" she inquired, with quickly rising color.

"That their orders had come?" She hesitated and made no reply. Quickly
he stepped forward and threw his arm around her, tenderly kissing her
forehead.

"You'll make a soldier's wife, Pauline. You can keep a secret."

And now, looking quickly at Miss Kitty, I saw that she had risen and
was eagerly gazing at them, a strange, wistful light in her sweet young
face.

"What is it all, colonel?" I inquired.

"The cavalry left for New Orleans at dark. Amory got telegraphic orders
soon after we left, and Vinton came in from the West by the evening
train and took command at the station. Neither of them had time to come
out here to say good-by," he added, with an involuntary glance at Kitty,
while still holding Pauline's hand in his own.

"You saw Major Vinton?" Pauline calmly asked.

"Yes, dear. I have a note for you. He was only there thirty minutes.
Amory had the troop, horses and all, on the cars before the Memphis
train got in."

She took her note and with him walked into the library. Irresolutely I
stepped out on the gallery a moment. Then returning for a cigar or
something consolatory, I nearly collided with Miss Kitty at the
parlor-door. She recoiled a pace; then with her bonny head bowed in her
hands, with great sobs shaking her slender form, my unheroic little
heroine rushed past me and up the stairs to her own room. I felt like a
spy.



CHAPTER VII.


The next few days passed somewhat gloomily. Eager interest centred in
the daily paper from New Orleans. The _Times_ in those days was "run"
entirely in the interest of a strong faction not inaptly termed
"carpet-baggers." Few of the Republican party of the white element had
been natives and property-owners in the State before the war. All of the
colored race, most of them at least, had been residents perhaps, but
held as property rather than as property-owners. The _Picayune_, always
the representative of the old _régime_ in the South, was naturally the
journal which found its way into our distant household. Its pictures of
affairs in the Crescent City were startling beyond question, and its
columns were filled with grave portent of riot, insurrection, and
bloodshed.

Judge Summers was visibly worried by its reports. Harrod looked gloomy
and ill at ease; Pauline very grave; Kitty picturesquely doleful. All,
however, seemed to relax no effort to make me feel at home and
"entertained," but the evident cloud overshadowed me. I began to want to
get away.

If all New Orleans were swept by the flames, my personal losses would be
slight; but the small library I owned would be an excuse. My confidence
that neither side would set fire to anything was only equalled by that
which I felt that both would join forces to put it out if they did. For
two years we had been having just the same exhilarating experiences, and
it never came to burning anything but a little powder. Sometimes one
side, sometimes another would raise a huge mob, and with much pomp and
parade, with much blatant speech-making and wide publication of their
intentions, would march noisily through the streets towards some public
building, at that moment held by the opposite party, avowedly for the
purpose of taking it by force of arms. The first year there had been
some desultory shooting, but no casualties to speak of. The second there
had been less damage, though far more display; for by this time there
were three parties in the field. Then, however, Uncle Sam assumed the
_rôle_ of peace-maker; sent a general thither with his staff (giving him
a major-general's title and a major's force), with vague orders as to
what he was to do, as I chanced to know, beyond keeping the peace and
upholding the law and the constituted authorities. As three parties
claimed to be the "constituted authorities," it seemed embarrassing at
times to tell which to uphold. Washington officials declined to decide
for him, so the veteran soldier hit on the happy expedient of upholding
the party that was attacked. This put him squarely in the right so far
as keeping the peace was concerned; for whichever crowd sallied forth to
whip the other, invariably found a small battalion of bayonets, or on
one occasion a solitary aide-de-camp representing the United States.
They would not "fire on the flag"; so retired to thunder at one another
through the press. But it put him squarely in the wrong where settling
the question for good and all was concerned. So long as the factions
felt sure they would not be allowed to fight, the more they talked about
doing it; and the real sufferers were the patient, plodding infantry
officers and men, who were kept trudging up and down, night and day,
from town to barracks. They were tired, hungry, jaded-looking fellows
that winter. I had called three of them into my room one chill morning
after they had been standing all night on the curbstones of the
State-house waiting for an attack they knew would never come; warmed
them up with coffee or cocktails as they might prefer; then one of them
opened his heart.

"This whole thing is the most infernal farce," said he. "Ten to one the
true way to stop it is to send us miles away and let them get at one
another. The Lord knows I'd afford them every encouragement. They don't
want to fight. If old General Fitz Blazes would only send me with my
company _behind_ instead of between these howling idiots they'd
evaporate quick enough."

Well I recalled every bit of this! It was when the "radical" party was
split up into local factions, each demanding the State-house--and the
Treasury; but--things were different now. The old residents, the
business men, the representative citizens of the city had stood that
sort of thing just as long as human endurance and their ebbing purses
could stand it. They now had organized and risen against the perturbed
State authorities; and when that class of men began shooting somebody
was going to be hurt. As yet nothing aggressive had been done; but the
Republican government was tottering on its Louisiana throne, and
appealed for aid. This it was that was sending troops from all
directions to the Crescent City. I decided to go and protect my lares
and penates, trivial though they might be.

To my relief, yet surprise, the moment I mentioned this to Colonel
Summers his face lighted up with an expression of delight.

"Mr. Brandon, we'll go together, and as soon as you like."

Noticing my evident surprise, he added, "To tell the truth I ought to
go, and at once. Will you come into father's library and let me
explain?"

Assenting, as a matter of course, I followed him. Pauline was seated by
her father's side as we entered, writing, as she often did, from his
dictation.

"Father," broke in the colonel, abruptly, "we can spare you all that
work. Mr. Brandon tells me he has decided to go at once to New Orleans.
I will go with him, and take the papers."

The judge rose somewhat slowly--anxiety had told on him very much in the
last day or two--and greeted me with his old-fashioned courtesy.

"It is a source of great regret to me--to us all--that you should leave
us; yet you have doubtless anxieties, as indeed I have,--great
ones,--and I wish it were in my power to go myself; but that cannot be,
for a fortnight at least; and by that time, as things are looking now,
it may be too late,--it may be too late. My son will tell you----" he
broke off suddenly.

Miss Summers had risen; her sweet, thoroughbred face had grown a little
paler of late, and she stood anxiously regarding her father, but saying
not a word. For some moments we sat in general conversation; then,
noticing how tired the judge was looking, I rose, saying it was time to
make preparations.

Two hours later, the old carriage rattled up to the steps. The colonel
stood aside, holding some final consultation with his father. Miss
Summers, with a blush that was vastly becoming to her, handed me a
letter for the major. "As yet, you know, Major Vinton has not been able
to send me his New Orleans address. They are barely there by this time;
but you were so incautious as to offer to take anything to him, so I
burden you with this."

Kitty Carrington was looking on with wistful eyes.

"And you, little lady? what note or message will you intrust to me?"

She had smoothed back her bright hair. She was looking again as she had
the night she begged to play nurse over our unconscious Mars. She looked
older, graver, but so gentle, so patient in the trouble that had come
into her young life. Whatever that trouble might have been _I_ could not
say. There was something very pathetic about the slender little figure
as she stood there.

For all answer to my question, she shook her head, smiling rather sadly,
yet striving to throw archness into her accompanying gesture. The faint
shrug of her pretty shoulders, the forward movement of her hands, with
open and extended palms,--something so Southern in it all. I could not
help noting it. Possibly I stared, as previous confessions indicate that
I had that adventurous night in the cars.

My rudeness caused her to turn sharply away with heightened color.

Then came general good-byes, good speeds, good lucks, promises to
write,--those promises, like so many others, made only to be broken. We
clambered into the carriage. Already the driver was gathering his whip
and reins; had "chucked" to his sleepy team. Harrod was sitting on the
side nearest the group on the steps; I craning my neck forward for a
last look at them. Kitty was eagerly bending forward; her lips parted,
her eyes dilated, her fingers working nervously. Already the wheels had
begun to crunch through the gravel, when with sudden movement she darted
like a bird down the steps.

"_Harrod!_" she cried.

"Hold on, driver," was the response, as he bent to the doorway to meet
her.

Standing on tiptoe, her tiny white hands clutching his arm, a vivid
color shooting over her face, her eyes one moment nervously,
apprehensively, reproachfully glancing at me, plainly saying, "Please
don't listen," then, raised to his bronzed, tender face, as he bent ear
towards her lips in response to the evident appeal. She rapidly
whispered half a dozen words. "_Do_ you understand? _Sure_ you
understand?" she questioned eagerly, as now she leaned back, looking up
into his eyes.

He bent still farther, kissed her forehead. "Sure," he nodded. "Sure."

Then back she sprang. Crack went the whip, and we rolled away towards
the gate.

Looking back, my eyes took in for the last time the old home; and the
picture lingers with me, will live with me to the end of my lonely life.
The red-gold light of the setting sun streamed in all its glory on the
southern front of the quaint plantation house. The tangled shrubbery,
the sombre line of the dense forest beyond the fields, the vines and
tendrils that clung about the gallery railing and the wooden pillars,
the low-hanging eaves, the moss-covered line of porch-roof,--all were
tinged, gilded, gleaming here and there with the warmth and glow of the
gladness-giving rays. The windows above blazed with their reflected
glory. Even old Blondo's curly hide and Jake Biggs's woolly pate gained
a lustre they never knew before. All around the evidences of approaching
decay and present dilapidation, so general throughout the bright sunny
South years after the war, all around the homeliest objects, the
wheelbarrow and garden tools, there clung a tinge of gladness in
answering homage to the declining king of day; but, central figures of
all, the trio we left upon the steps, _they_ fairly stood in a halo of
mellow gold. The gray-haired gentleman waving his thin hand in parting
salutation; the noble, womanly girl at his side, half supporting, half
leaning upon him; and on the lower stair, kissing her hand, waving her
dainty kerchief, her eyes dancing, her cheeks aflame, her white teeth
flashing through the parted lips, her fragile form all radiance, all
sweet, glowing, girlish beauty, stood Kitty Carrington; she who but a
moment before had seemed so patiently sad.

"Did you ever see anything prettier?" I gasped, as at last the winding
roadway hid them from our sight.

"Kitty, Brandon?--she's a darling!" was the warm-hearted answer.

That was precisely my opinion.

All the way into Sandbrook I was tortured with curiosity to know the
purport of the mysterious parting whisper. It would not do to let
Colonel Summers suspect that of me; neither would it answer to propound
any question. We had much to talk of that is of no interest and has no
bearing on our story, but it kept us employed until we reached the
station.

Our train was due at 7.45, going west, the same hour at which the troops
had left. Their single passenger-car and the four freight-cars on which
their horses were carried had been coupled to the regular train. They
had gone, we learned, to Grand Junction; thence down the Mississippi
Central. The station-master was an old army friend of the colonel's. He
received us with all courtesy, and immediately asked us into his own
little office.

"Reckon you'd best just make yourselves comfortable, gentlemen; that
train's nigh onto two hours late, near as I can make it."

"Two hours late! Why, that will ruin our connection!" exclaimed Harrod.

"They're going to try and make the Central wait over," was the answer,
"but I'd bet high on our being later'n we think for. Once a fellow gets
off his schedule on this road, he's more apt to be losing all the time
than gaining."

The colonel and I looked at each other a moment in some dismay. Quandary
though it was, there was nothing for it but to wait, and wait we did,
two--three hours. The darkness grew intense back towards the Tennessee;
the loungers in the waiting-room or platform in groups of two or three,
rose, yawned, stretched themselves, "'Lowed t'warn't no use waitin';
could see the derned train any other night just as well," and took
themselves and their tobacco-juice off. The lights across the way,
beyond the tracks, died out one by one, until only those two were left
which represented the rival saloons, still keeping open for the
presumable benefit of some prowler hoping to get trusted for a drink.
Finally only the station-master and ourselves were left, all drowsy, but
the former still seated, with his one remaining hand close to his
telegraph instrument. Still no news of the train. I began to doze.

It could not have been more than ten or fifteen minutes before the
clicking of the instrument aroused me. Having long since ceased to care
whether the train now came or not, since we had heard by nine that the
Central would not wait, I only sleepily gazed at the operator. The
colonel had gone asleep, and the sound did not awake him. But another
moment the expression on the face of the man sitting so intently over
his table aroused me to eagerness. At first professionally indifferent,
it grew suddenly clouded; then a look of keen distress came upon it as
he quickly glanced around at his old comrade.

I involuntarily sprang up and approached the table. He had written half
the message, then dropped pencil and hammered away at the key.

"For him," said he, with a backward jerk of the head to indicate the
colonel.

It seemed an endless time before he could get the thing straightened out
and the message written.

"Please wake him," said he.

I gently shook Harrod's shoulder. He started up with soldierly
promptitude.

"Train coming?" he asked, as he began gathering his traps.

"Not yet, colonel. It's news from the boys, the cavalry."

"Got to New Orleans all right?"

"Got there; but--read for yourself."

With a face that paled even in the dim light of the station, and lips
that trembled under his moustache, the colonel read, handed it to me
without a word, and turned away.

This was the message:

     "NEW ORLEANS, Tuesday.

     "COLONEL H. SUMMERS, Sandbrook Station, M. and C. R. R., Alabama.

     "Arrived yesterday. Vinton dangerously ill; delirious. Post
     surgeons in charge. If possible, come.

     "FRANK AMORY."

Then we three looked at one another with faces sad and blanched. Harrod
was the first to speak.

"May I take your horse, Billy?"

"Yes, and the house and barn if it'll help."

"Then I'm off for home at once, for Pauline."

The delay of that train was a blessing in disguise.



CHAPTER VIII.


A dim, murky morning it was that dawned on Sandbrook the following day.
I had spent the livelong night at the station. The missing train came
unheeded, soon after Colonel Summers on "Billy's" horse loped off into
the northern darkness. I had sent a dispatch to Amory, care of
Department Headquarters in New Orleans. "Billy" had hospitably invited
me to share his humble breakfast, made most relishable though by the
steaming coffee "cooked" army fashion in a battered old pot with a
reliable lid. I had noted with respect and with pleasure the fine
picture of General Lee hanging over the narrow mantel, and the battered
old cavalry sabre beneath it; and was beginning to ask myself how I
could best employ the day until evening train-time, when the rapid beat
of hoofs and the familiar rattle of the carriage-wheels sounded in my
ears.

"Hyar they come," said "Billy." "I knew they would."

Even before we could reach the platform, the carriage had whirled up
there and Harrod sprang from the box-seat.

"That freight gone by yet, Billy?"

"The freight! Lord, no! Colonel, you're not going to take Miss Summers
that way?"

"It hasn't gone, dear," he quickly spoke to the silent inmate of the
carriage. "But it's due how soon?" turning again to his friend.

"Ten minutes, colonel, and on time, too, if you're bound to go by her."

"By all means. We may strike something at Corinth; if not, we'll go on
to the Junction." Then with lowered voice, "Anything is better than
waiting at such a time. We'd better get them out, I think."

Them! Who could be there? thought I, for up to this time I had thought
best not to intrude. Now I stepped forward as he opened the
carriage-door, and with light, quick spring out popped Kitty.

"Mr. Brandon will take charge of you, Kit; there's a dear," said he,
gently, then turned again to the door, and tenderly handed out his
sister. She came instantly to me with dry eyes, and firm, low voice,
only with face so pale. She frankly held forth her hand, which--which I
took in both my own.

"Have you heard anything further?"

I shook my head.

"And you have been sitting up here all night waiting for us. How kind,
yet how tired you must be!"

"I never expected you till evening," I answered, bluntly, and was
rewarded by a look of quick, reproachful surprise.

"Harrod reached us at one o'clock. It took very little time to get
ready. Mr. Brandon, can you make _any_ conjecture as to the nature of
his illness?"

"None whatever; fever of some kind, I am half inclined to believe,
contracted while off on this court-martial tour."

She bowed her head, and now silent tears fell from her eyes. Harrod led
her to one side and, putting his arm around her, stood whispering
cheeringly to her. Then I turned to Kitty, who was very quietly engaged
in getting out satchels, baskets, and travelling-bags; all was done
before I reached her.

"It is a surprise to see you, Miss Kitty."

"A surprise! Surely you did not suppose I would let Paulie go on so sad
a journey without me. There are many ways in which I can help her."

There was no answer to the wisdom of that statement. The distant whistle
of the freight had twice been heard, and in ten minutes our party of
four were disposed in the conductor's caboose. The situation had been
explained to that officer in very few words by Harrod and "Billy;" and,
with that almost chivalrous courtesy which the roughest-looking men in
the South show to the gentler sex on all occasions I ever witnessed,
the train-hands had busied themselves in making a comfortable corner for
the ladies. Rude and poor were the appliances, but Walter Raleigh never
laid down his priceless cloak for foot of royal mistress with truer
grace than did those rough ex-soldiers spread their blankets, coats, and
pillows to make a soft substructure for the heavy shawls which the
ladies had with them. Watching, as I have on a thousand occasions, the
gentle courtesy of Southern men to women, high or low, I never lack for
explanation, never wonder how they came to fight so well. Bayard Taylor
struck the key-note when he wrote,--

    "The bravest are the tenderest,
    The loving are the daring."

At noon we were at Corinth and eagerly questioning the officials there.
No train till nine.

"What chance by going to Grand Junction?"

"No better, colonel; they've had the customary smash-up on the Central,
and 'taint no use trying. Even if the road weren't blocked, their
south-bound express don't get off as early as ours from here."

"Are there no trains coming south, not even freight?"

"Colonel, I'm sorry, but there's not a train of any kind,--nothin'
except a special, going through a-whoopin' for Orleans, I suppose, with
a lot o' damyankees."

"What! a special with troops, do you mean?" asked Harrod, eagerly.

"Exactly; somewhere from up in Tennessee. Two or three companies--but,
Lord! you couldn't ride with them even if they'd let you. They
telegraphed ahead here for coffee for seventy men, and want to take the
kettles on to the next station. Not much----"

"Never mind, Mr. Agent," broke in Harrod, impatiently; "when are they
due?"

"Coffee's ordered for 12.30. Reckon they'll be along very soon," replied
the nettled functionary.

"What say you, Brandon? Shall we try it?"

"Most assuredly; and I think it can be done."

Four pairs of anxious, eager eyes watched that train of "damyankees" as
it came rushing into the station sharp at 12.30. A crowd of
sullen-looking "white trash" had gathered, a larger knot of curious and
eager darkies, to see the sight. The engine whizzed past the platform;
then two passenger-cars, from every window of which protruded
blue-capped, dust-begrimed soldier heads; sentries stood at the doors,
and only as the last car--a third passenger-car--came opposite us did
the train stop. A sharp, business-like young fellow, in dust-covered
fatigue dress with infantry shoulder-straps and cap, sprang out.

"That coffee ready?" he asked, bounding at the agent at once.

"Wall, I s'pose so," drawled the party addressed, as though desirous of
giving all the annoyance he could.

"If you want your money you'd better know, and lively too. We've no time
to waste. Tumble out here, Sergeant Triggs. Bring six men while this
party is waking up."

Then as his men went into the kitchen to bring out the steaming
caldrons, I asked if I could see the commanding officer on immediate and
important business.

"Certainly, sir; rear car. Come this way."

We followed him, Harrod and I; found the forward half of the third car
filled, as were the other two, with the rank and file. At the rear end
were half a dozen sleepy, dusty, and disgusted-looking gentlemen.

"This is Major Williams, sir," said the business-like youngster, and in
an instant he was out on the platform again.

A tall, dust-colored officer rose to meet my extended card and hand,
mild surprise in his eyes. "Major," said I, "Major Vinton, of the
cavalry, lies dangerously ill in New Orleans. He is engaged to the
sister of my friend, Colonel Summers. No train leaves here until nine
to-night, and in our eagerness to get to Vinton before it be too late
we ask to be taken with you."

For an instant the commanding officer was staggered by my impetuous
harangue, but "he rallied."

"Major Vinton, say you? I'm distressed to hear it. I know him well by
reputation, though it has not been my good fortune to meet him. We--we
must find some way----Excuse me, let me speak one instant with the
quartermaster."

He quickly stepped to a bulky, stolid-looking youth, and addressed him
in few rapid words. The whistle blew,--my heart stood still. He sprang
to a window, stuck out his head, and shouted,--

"A--a--Mr. _Tur_pin. Stop the train. Don't start till I tell you."

"All right, sir," came back in the quick, sharp tones we had heard
before.

Again the major and the stolid youth met. We heard snatches of the
latter's words,--"no precedent, no authority,"--and my heart again sank.
Like Mr. Perker of blessed memory, I was about to interpose with "But my
dear sir, my _dear_ sir," when Mr. Turpin burst in like a thunder-clap
at the rear door.

"Jupiter Ammon, fellows! Blow the dust from your eyes if you want to see
the prettiest girl in the South!"

"Never mind precedent; we'll make a precedent," broke in the major,
impatiently. "Gentlemen,"--he turned to us,--"you see how forlorn are
our surroundings, but you and yours are welcome." The whole thing took
less time than it takes to read it.

Harrod sprang for his sister. Mr. Turpin sprang for Kitty. Eager hands
seized the bags and traps, shoving them through windows, anywhere,
anyhow; and half bewildered, all grateful, all surprise, Pauline and
Kitty found themselves aboard, and we were spinning out of inhospitable
Corinth.

"Pardon our great haste, ladies," I heard the major saying. "We _must_
be in New Orleans some time in the early morning." The "damyankees" were
going to get us there twenty-four hours ahead of any other arrangement
we could have made.

Shall I ever forget that almost breathless ride? "Be here to-morrow
morning without fail" were the words of the dispatch Major Williams had
received at the point where his train left the Louisville road and swung
into the rails of the Mobile and Ohio. It was the "longer way
round,"--that through Mobile,--but some late experiences had proved it
the shorter way home; and, as the conductor presently explained to the
major, on entering the car, "I've given the engineer orders to jump her
for all she's worth. We only stop for water and passing one up-train.
Even the express has to side-track for us."

Then the conductor wiped his hot brow, and with infinite surprise looked
first at the ladies just getting settled into the seats eager hands had
been dusting and preparing for them, then at me. Then Harrod came
quickly to us, and in him he recognized at once Colonel Summers of the
Alabama cavalry of by-gone days. With the Free-masonry of old
campaigners, they gripped hands before questions of any kind were put.
Harrod promptly explained the situation. "Thanks to these gentlemen, we
are permitted to share their car. Of course we settle with you for the
fare. But for their kindness we could not have reached New Orleans
before late, perhaps too late, to-morrow night."

The conductor turned to the officers: "Major Williams, sir (yes, he did
say "sah," and I liked to hear it), I want to thank you in the name of
the road for your prompt courtesy to these friends of mine. I had to
jump for the telegraph-office myself, and did not see them. You can just
bet your life, sir, the Mobile and Ohio shall know of it, and they'll
thank you in a way I'm not empowered to."

And so, whizzing at forty-five miles an hour, Southron and Yank were
drawing into the brotherhood of a common sympathy.

And so it went all through that grimy afternoon. With what unremitting
thoughtfulness and care those fellows looked after our fair charges! The
sanctity of her grief and anxiety rendered Miss Summers the object of
the deepest respect and sympathy. Reclining at the rear of the car, her
veil drawn over her face, none but Harrod ventured to approach her; but
Kitty was the centre of incessant attention, and through her all manner
of improvised delicacies were brought to Pauline. The dust was stifling,
and indefatigable Mr. Turpin appeared from somewhere in front with a tin
basin filled with cracked ice. The doctor came forward with a silver cup
of delicious lemonade (he had levied on his pannier for lime-juice and
powdered sugar) dexterously rendered soulful by a dash of Vini Gallici.
Kitty smiled her thanks to both, and a duplicate of the beverage was
grateful to her silent cousin. We flew over the rattling rails, and the
jarring was incessant. The doctor produced an air-pillow for Pauline's
head. We stopped somewhere for water, and the major disappeared. The
ladies had brought luncheon in a large basket--but no appetites. The
soldiers had rations and were filled. The officers had not had a
mouthful since a breakfast at 3 A.M., and were hungry. No chance for a
bite until 5 P.M., when, said the conductor, they might grab a sandwich
at Ragsdale's, at Meridian. "But we can't stop three minutes, boys."
Kitty overheard it. She was in animated conversation with a tall
subaltern, who claimed to be from Kentucky. They were sitting three
seats ahead of Miss Summers, who was undisturbed by their chatter; all
voices were subdued as far as was possible. Mr. Turpin, who was a man of
few words but vast action, was hovering about, eager for a chance to do
something. She knew it. They all seem to have infinite intuition that
way.

"Oh, Mr. Turpin, would you please bring me our lunch-basket?" And Turpin
was down upon us like his namesake of old, demanding the basket in a
manner suggestive of "or your lives." Another second and it was
deposited in front of her, and she bade him summon his brotherhood; and
they went, even the stolid quartermaster, who felt sheepish apparently.
And there she sat like a little Lady Bountiful, dispensing to each and
all (a Southern lunch-basket reminds me of the parable of the loaves and
fishes), and they surrounded her, eating and adoring.

At five we rolled into Meridian, and Ragsdale's sandwiches were
forgotten. Major Williams sprang from the train.

"Yes, dear," I heard Harrod saying to his sister, "I will try and send a
dispatch from here," and with that he rose. I went with him in search of
the telegraph-office. At the door we met the major, some open dispatches
in his hand.

"Have we time to send a despatch to New Orleans?" asked Harrod, eagerly.

"Hardly," said the major, with a quiet smile. "But won't this do?" and
he placed in Harrod's hand one of the papers. The message read:

     "Telegram received. Assure Vinton's friends that fever is less. He
     receives best care. We are hopeful now.

     "REYNOLDS, A.A.G."

"Thank God!" I uttered.

Summers, with tears starting to his eyes, grasped the soldier's hand.

"You are a very thoughtful man, sir."

"All aboard!" yelled the conductor. "Get those lamps lit now."

Somehow I was glad it was dusk in the car as we sprang aboard. Harrod,
with quick, eager step, went directly to her. Something told her he had
news, and she rose, throwing back her veil, and bent eagerly forward. He
placed the paper in her hand, and, clutching it, she seemed to devour
the contents. Kitty had turned quickly to look. Conversation somehow had
ceased. Then we saw her glance one instant up in his face. Then his
strong arms were round her, for, burying her face in his breast, she had
burst into a passion of almost hysterical weeping. Then we all turned
away and shook hands. The whole car knew Vinton was better. One soldier
up in front wanted to give three cheers, but was promptly suppressed.
Kitty's own eyes were overflowing as she received the congratulations of
the lately banquetted, and with a great load off our hearts we sped
onward through the darkness.

Two sweet pictures remain in my memory of that strange night. First was
that of Miss Summers and Major Williams. At her request Harrod brought
him to her, that she might thank him for the thoughtfulness, the
delicate attention he had shown. Her face was exquisite in the revival
of hope, in the intensity of gratitude.

The second was about 11 P.M. We had had to make some stops. Our run was
now less impeded. It had grown chilly and raw. Coming in from the front,
whither I had gone to smoke with the conductor, I found the inmates of
the rear of our car apparently buried in slumber, except one figure. Mr.
Turpin, with his blouse collar turned up and his hands in his pockets,
was sitting bolt upright. Two seats behind him, her fair hair curling
about her rounded cheek, sleeping like a babe after all the fatigues and
excitements of the day, but from neck to foot completely enveloped in a
cloak of army blue, was Kitty Carrington, our rampant little rebel Kit.



CHAPTER IX.


Early in the morning, earlier even than I had supposed possible, the
conductor's voice was heard announcing to somebody that we would be in
New Orleans in less than half an hour. I had been sleeping somewhat
uneasily, curled up on one of the seats. I was dimly conscious of the
fact that at some unknown hour in the night another telegram had been
received referring to Vinton, and that Miss Summers was wide awake when
it came. I remember Harrod's bending over and kissing her, and hearing
the words, "That is better yet." Then sleep again overpowered me. Now,
at daybreak, I arose and gazed around the dimly-lighted car. Miss
Summers, Harrod, and Major Williams were the only occupants apparently
astir. The former was sitting near the opened window; the cool, salty
breeze from the Gulf was playing with the ripples of fair hair that
clustered about her forehead. She looked very white and wan in the
uncertain light, but there was a womanly tenderness and sweetness about
her face that made it inexpressibly lovely to me. She was gazing
wistfully out over the sea of marsh and swamp, as though longing to
bridge the distance that still separated us from the city, where he lay
battling with that insidious enemy. Harrod and the major were in earnest
conversation. Other occupants of the car were beginning to stir
uneasily, as though warned that soon they must be up and doing; but
Kitty still slept, and the cloak of army blue still covered her. Mr.
Turpin had disappeared.

A few moments more and the officers had been aroused; the men were
donning their belts and equipments; Pauline herself stepped forward,
and, bending over her pretty cousin, roused her from her baby-like
sleep; and glancing from the windows, I could see that we were rolling
up the "Elysian Fields." Then came the curving sweep around on the broad
levee. All looked quiet, even deserted, as we passed the Mint and the
wide thoroughfare of Esplanade Street. Some of the lamps still burned
dimly in the _cafés_ and bars, but no trace of commotion or excitement
could be discerned. It was with some little surprise then that our eyes
met the warlike scene as we rolled into the station at the foot of Canal
Street.

The instant the train stopped, our car was boarded by an alert gentleman
in civilian dress whom I had often seen, and whom I knew to be an
aide-de-camp on the staff of the commanding general. He came at once to
Major Williams; shook hands with him, and conveyed some orders in a low
tone of voice; then asked to be presented to Colonel Summers. Major
Williams brought him to where our group of four was then standing, at
the rear of the car,--Miss Summers, Kitty, Harrod, and myself.

"Let me introduce Colonel Newhall, of General Emory's staff," he said,
and the colonel, raising his hat in general salutation to the party,
spoke in the hurried, nervous way I afterwards found was habitual with
him, despite the _sang-froid_ that distinguished him at all times save
in the presence of ladies.

"I have come direct from Major Vinton's room, Colonel Summers, and am
happy to tell you that the doctors pronounce him much better. The
general charged me to bring you the latest news of him, and to express
to you and to your ladies his warm interest and sympathy."

Then we had not come as strangers to a strange land. I glanced at
Pauline, as her brother, warmly grasping the staff-officer's hand,
presented him to her and to Kitty. Her clear, brave eyes were suffused
with tears and she did not venture to speak a word; but she was
infinitely moved by the constantly recurring evidences of interest in
her and her gallant lover. Such an informal announcement of an
engagement perhaps was not strictly in accordance with the prevailing
customs of society, but the exigencies of the case put all such
considerations aside. Everybody on our train knew the story of course,
and it had evidently been telegraphed to headquarters. Meantime, Major
Williams had been superintending the debarkation of his men, and they
were forming ranks on the platform outside. Beyond them, a long line of
stacked arms was guarded by sentries, and several companies of infantry
were grouped behind them, watching with professional interest the
arrival of comrade soldiery. A number of officers had gathered at the
side of the car,--very weary they looked too, and far from jaunty in
their dusty fatigue uniforms; but they were intent on welcoming Major
Williams and his command, and at that hour in the morning, costume and
unshaven chins were not subject to criticism. Time and again it had been
my lot to be at this very station, but never before had I seen it
thronged with troops. It was evident that matters of grave moment were
going on in the city.

Colonel Newhall had left the car for a moment and Harrod came to me:

"It seems that Vinton is at Colonel Newhall's quarters on Royal Street,
Mr. Brandon. He met the troop on its arrival in town, and finding Vinton
wellnigh delirious with fever, had him taken at once to his lodgings.
There are a number of vacant rooms, he tells me, and he has made all
arrangements to take us right there; so there we will go. The St.
Charles is crowded, and Pauline naturally wants to be near him. I think
it the best arrangement that could possibly be made."

Even as he finished, the colonel came in to say that the carriage was
ready. Harrod, Pauline, Kitty and I followed him to the platform. The
group of officers standing there courteously raised their forage-caps as
our ladies passed them. Kitty looked furtively about her as she stepped
from the car, and Mr. Turpin sprang forward to take her light satchel.
It was but a few steps to the carriage. Pauline and Kitty were handed
in. Summers and Colonel Newhall took their seats in the carriage. We
shook hands all round without saying much of anything, except that I
should meet them later in the day; the driver cracked his whip, and away
they went up Canal Street, Mr. Turpin and I gazing after them.

Even as we looked, there came trotting down the stone pavement towards
us a pair of cavalrymen. The one in front, tall, slender, erect, I
recognized at once as Frank Amory. The one in rear was evidently his
orderly. Never noticing the carriage, which had hurried off on the
Custom-House side of the street, the former rode rapidly to the very
point where we were standing. I saw Mr. Turpin look eagerly at him, then
spring forward.

"Sheep, old man, how are you?"

"Hello, Cyclone! when did you get here?" and throwing the reins to his
orderly, Frank Amory sprang from the saddle, and warmly grasped Mr.
Turpin by the hand. The boys were classmates.

It was perhaps a minute before Amory noticed that I was standing there,
so absorbed was he in greeting his comrade. The moment he caught sight
of me, however, he stepped quickly forward. Quite a number of the
younger officers had gathered around by this time, and with heightened
color he looked eagerly in my face.

"When did you come? Who--who else came?" he asked, excitedly.

"We arrived only a few minutes ago," I said. "Miss Summers, Miss Kitty,
and the colonel with me. They just drove off in that carriage. We are so
rejoiced to hear Major Vinton is better."

"You don't say so!" he exclaimed, then stopped short, as though at a
loss what to add. "I--I had no idea she--you could get here so soon.
Vinton _is_ better, thank God! Where have they gone?"

"To Colonel Newhall's quarters," I answered. "It seems there are several
rooms, and the colonel says his landlady will take the best of care of
them. Then they will be near him, which is something to be considered."

"Why, Sheep, did you know Colonel Summers and Miss Carrington?" broke in
Mr. Turpin, suddenly.

"Yes, quite well. I was stationed near them," was the answer, given with
some constraint.

Mr. Turpin stuck his hands deep in his pockets and said not another
word. Other officers crowded about Mr. Amory to inquire for Major
Vinton, and to ask for news. Presently Major Williams came up with
Colonel Starr, the commanding officer of the battalion that was "in
bivouac" at the station, and I was presented to the latter. From them I
learned something of the situation.

They had been on guard all night there at the station. What for they
could not exactly tell. It seems that one faction of the Legislature
occupied the temporary State-House; another had its headquarters over a
prominent bar-room in Royal Street; and a large concourse of citizens
had organized with military formalities and the avowed intention of
dislodging the factional Legislature from the house; installing a
Governor of their own choice; and subduing the police force of the city,
now enrolled as a uniformed and fully-equipped battalion of infantry,
with a battery of field-guns and a squadron of cavalry as assistants.
The police held the various stations, and no encounter had taken place;
but the citizens had turned out in great numbers, and the chances were
that they would prove too powerful for the mixed array of the police
force; and trouble had been anticipated for that very night, but it had
not come. A strong battalion of infantry was posted here at the railway
station. Another, after a day of weary marching, was resting at a large
cotton-press up the levee; two companies of cavalry were stationed at
the quartermaster's warehouse up in Magazine Street, near the
headquarters of the commanding general, and two foot batteries from an
artillery regiment had spent the night in the State-House itself.
Cavalry patrols had been scouting through the city all night, promptly
reporting any unusual gathering, but in no case interfering. Verily
these were strange accompaniments to the times of piping peace.

It was after seven o'clock when I reached my rooms. I was tired and
ought to have been sleepy after the long, rapid ride by rail, but the
morning papers were full of exciting prophecy as to the events of the
day, and sleep was out of the question. Amory had declined my invitation
to breakfast, saying that he could not be away from his troop more than
fifteen minutes at a time, and had only managed to get down to the
station while out looking after his patrols. A bath and a change of
raiment proved refreshing. Then I took a car; rode to Canal Street;
walked down Royal to Colonel Newhall's lodgings; met one of the doctors,
who assured me that Major Vinton was doing very well, and that later
they hoped he might be well enough to see Miss Summers. He was still
flighty and had no idea of his whereabouts. The ladies were up-stairs
resting. Would I see them? No, I preferred not to disturb them, and so
went off by myself to breakfast at my usual haunt, Moreau's. The room
was already well filled when I entered. Most of the tables were
occupied, many of them by prominent citizens. Much earnest talk was
going on in subdued tones, and there was an air of suppressed excitement
that was noticeable to the most careless observer. Two of the tables
were occupied by a party of infantry officers whom I had seen at the
station, and it was noticeable that within earshot of them little was
being said in reference to "the situation." I had several acquaintances
among the business men present, and took a seat near them. The first
words that fell upon my ears were,--

"And it will be done to-night, you may depend upon it."

"But do you suppose that General Emory will stand by and allow such a
thing to go on under his very nose?"

"General Emory can't help himself, sir. His orders from Washington do
not permit him to act unless called upon by the marshal or by the State
authorities. The whole thing will be over and done with before they can
make their demand, and our people will have dispersed before the troops
get there."

"But suppose they get wind of it and call upon him to station his men to
meet the move?"

"Why, that ends it, of course. We are helpless in that case. We don't
mean to raise a finger against the general government. Let him send a
corporal's guard to any one of the places and it's safe; but as for this
infernal mottled police----"

"Steady!"

And then both speakers looked up at the party of infantry officers, who
had risen and were quietly leaving. Then they looked at me, and the rest
of the conversation was in too low a tone for any one to hear.

The day was one of restless anxiety, yet of apparent quiet and order.
The broad "banquette" of Canal Street was thronged with ladies and
children as is customary on bright afternoons. The matinées at the
Varieties and the St. Charles Theatre were crowded. At half-past four,
as I strolled up the street under the friendly shade of the awnings,
that made the wide sidewalks one long arcade, I was struck by the
perfectly peaceful aspect of the scene. From the Custom-House to Rampart
Street, on the lower side of the way, I did not see a policeman, much
less a soldier in uniform; but at all the corners, the knots of
unoccupied men were much larger than usual; this being especially the
case around Dumonteil's and Lopez's confectioneries, and the well-known
establishment of "Dr. Sample."

On the opposite side and grouped around the brown-stone building of the
Shakespeare Club, half a dozen men in civilian dress were lolling about,
and less than one hundred yards up Dryades Street, as many more were
sitting or standing around the entrance of the massive Mechanics'
Institute, now used as a State-House and place of meeting of one at
least of the rival Legislatures; but there was nothing in its exterior
to indicate the state of siege as described in the daily press. In all,
there might have been one hundred loungers scattered from Victor's
marble-columned restaurant on the lower side down to "Dr. Sample's," in
the middle of the next block; but absolute quiet and order reigned. Some
of the windows in the second story of the Institute were open, and
occasionally the features of some colored legislator could be seen
peering curiously and cautiously out towards Canal Street.

Now that demon of curiosity that has always possessed me, prompted me to
stroll across the broad thoroughfare and to approach the entrance of
Dryades Street. As a neutral, I felt serenely confident that neither
side would take exceptions to my movements, but looking behind me as I
reached the car-tracks, I saw that the listless loungers on the
banquette had crowded forward to its edge, and were watching me with
interest. Keeping on, however, I soon reached the upper side, and
deliberately walked ahead as though bent on going to the State-House.
The instant I got beyond the Canal Street pavement, however, one of the
men I had noticed at the upper corner stepped quickly in front of me and
said,--

"Pardon me, Mr. Brandon, where did you wish to go?" Then, seeing my look
of surprise, he smilingly added, "Of course I know you, sir, though you
do not know me; I'm a detective."

"Why," said I, "if there be no objections, I would like to go to the
State-House, just to see what is going on."

"I'm sorry, sir," was the civil reply; "at this moment our orders are to
admit nobody."

Now, I hated to go back. I knew well that all those estimable
fellow-citizens of mine on the other side were watching the scene, and
that they would be sure to hold me in lighter estimation if I had to
retire. I put a bold face on the matter and whipped out my card-case.

"There are two batteries of foot artillery in there, I'm told, and among
their officers is a gentleman whom I used to know in New York and would
like to see. Can you send this to him?" I hastily scrawled "Late N. Y.
7th Regt." under my name. The detective took the card; whistled to a boy
who stood near; the youngster seized it and was off like a shot; while
my detective and I walked slowly towards the building. Before we reached
the stone steps, a fine-looking fellow in the fatigue uniform of the
United States artillery came out and looked inquiringly around. I
stepped forward at once and introduced myself; was most courteously
greeted and invited to walk in; the police official smilingly nodded
"All right now," and, guided by the lieutenant, I entered the mysterious
portals of the besieged halls of government.

It was an extraordinary sight that met my eyes. Grouped inside the
vestibule, where they could not be seen from Canal Street, or indeed
from any point on Dryades except directly in front, were some fifty
Metropolitan police in complete uniform and the equipments of infantry
soldiers; belts, cartridge-boxes, bayonet-scabbards, and all. Their
officers, with drawn swords and wearing shoulder-straps like those of
the regular service, were gathered in front. Stacks of Winchester rifles
stood close by, many of the men having their muskets still in their
hands. All the lower hall and the staircases were crowded with these
improvised troops, some white, some colored, there being white men in
the rank and file, and colored men among the officers. All were very
quiet, orderly, and apparently well disciplined. Some of those who were
seated on the stairway rose rather slowly to make way for us, and a
colored officer in the shoulder-straps of a captain spoke in a quick,
sharp tone to them; and, black and white, they sprang to their feet and
respectfully drew aside. At the head of the stairs were sentries and an
officer of the guard, all in police uniform, and they saluted my
artillery guide with all the precision of regulars.

"Would you like to look in at your Legislature?" asked he, with a
mischievous grin. I assented. The officer of the guard opened a door,
and we found ourselves in an inner hall or vestibule. Here we came upon
a dozen colored men surrounding a low wooden counter or table covered
with pies, cakes, sandwiches, and fruit. Behind the counter sat an old
negress in vehement expostulation.

"It's no use talkin', gen'lemen, you's just wastin' yo' time. Las' year
I done trus' de gen'lemen of de Senate an' Representives, an' dey ain't
paid me yit."

"But fo' de Lawd's sake, Mis' Fontelieu, I ain't had nuffin to eat sence
day befo' yis'day mawnin', an' I's starvin', I is. Yo' ought ter have
some consideration fo' gen'lemen of de Legislature what's sufferin' here
fo' you an' de people. Soon's we done git our salaries we's goin' to pay
you fus' thing. Ain't we, gen'lemen?" said the spokesman appealingly to
his brother Solons.

"Of co'se we is, Mis' Fontelieu," was the chorus, but all to no
purpose. Miss Fontelieu's experiences with previous Legislatures and
legislators had undermined her faith in the stability of their financial
condition, and nothing but cash in hand would induce her to part with
any of her stock in trade.

"I'd buy them a breakfast myself," said my lieutenant, laughingly, "for
I know very well that they have had nothing to eat except what they
could pick up here; but we contributed all our spare greenbacks
yesterday, and they'd be just as hungry by ten o'clock to-night."

We pushed on through the lobby and entered the main room, the temporary
hall of representatives, and here another odd sight greeted our eyes.

The room was large, rectangular in shape; a raised platform being at the
farther end; rows of cane-bottomed chairs were arranged in semicircular
order across the hall; a desk for the presiding officer was on the
platform; and tables and desks for clerks and reporters stood below it.
Scattered in groups all about the room were upwards of an hundred men,
some white, some colored, stretched at length upon the chairs, others
were lying asleep. The instant we entered, conversation ceased, and all
looked eagerly and inquiringly at my companion; even some of the
recumbent figures straightened up and gazed at him. Several stepped
forward from the nearest group and asked if there were any news,
receiving with evident disappointment his civil reply that he had heard
nothing.

"They have been cooped up here for nearly forty-eight hours," the
lieutenant explained. "You see, they've just got a quorum, and the
Governor knows blessed well that if they once get out, the chances are
ten to one they'll never get back. Either the other crowd will mob them,
or, in fear of the attack on the State-House, they will keep in hiding
somewhere around town."

The Governor, with his officers, was in his private room down-stairs, my
friend explained; and the Senate was likewise blockaded in another part
of the building; and this was the shape in which one Governor, at least,
of the sovereign State of Louisiana was "holding the fort" against all
would-be adversaries.

Then we left the hall of unwilling representatives; clambered another
flight of stairs, and came upon what the local press had not inaptly
termed "the citadel." Here, in an upper room, half a dozen officers of
artillery of the regular service were killing time, reading, writing, or
dozing; and most disgusted they looked with their occupation. On being
presented to the commanding officer and his comrades I was courteously
greeted and invited to make myself at home, "if," said the major, "you
can find any comfort in the situation. I've only once in my life been
on more distasteful duty, and that was when we were sent to break up
illicit distilleries in Brooklyn."

Their orders, I learned, were that both officers and men should remain
in the State-House, and not leave, even for meals, which were to be sent
from a neighboring restaurant; and there they had been for two nights
and days, in readiness to defend the place if attacked, yet having every
assurance that so long as there remained a "regular" soldier in the
building it would not be molested. No wonder they yawned and looked
bored to death; and my proffer of services was gladly accepted. "Send us
anything you may have in the way of reading matter, and we'll be only
too thankful," was the major's half-laughing, half-rueful reply, and
after an hour's chat I left. The lieutenant accompanied me to the
entrance, where he bade me good-by. The knot of detectives drew aside
and passed me out without remark. Once more I crossed Canal Street, and
in an instant found myself surrounded by a bevy of eager reporters,
note-book and pencil in hand, clamoring for information. From the
obscurity of yesterday, Mr. G. S. Brandon had suddenly leaped into
prominence.



CHAPTER X.


At nine o'clock that evening I was seated on a balcony overhanging Royal
Street, quietly chatting with Miss Summers, Kitty Carrington, and
Harrod. Vinton was much better, the doctors had assured us; the fever
was broken; he had recognized Pauline during the afternoon, and was now
asleep. The doctor had advised her to lie down and rest, for, after all
her anxiety and the excitement of her rapid journey, she was looking
very white and wan; but after an hour in her room she had again
appeared, pleading that she could not sleep, and Harrod had led her out
to the balcony, where we sat enjoying the evening air. Colonel Newhall
had not returned from headquarters. We saw him for an instant at
Moreau's, whither Harrod, Kitty, and I had gone for dinner, about six
o'clock, leaving Pauline to share the simple tea offered her by the
sympathetic landlady. He had stopped just long enough to say that it was
not probable that he would be home during the evening,--he was needed at
the office,--and then had walked briskly away. Coming home we could not
help noticing how many men there were standing in quiet groups about
the Clay statue and all along Canal Street; but Royal Street, generally
so busy and bustling, was strangely quiet, wellnigh deserted. It was an
exquisite night; the moon was at her full, and objects across the narrow
thoroughfare were almost as distinct as in broad daylight. I could
easily read the signs over the shops, and distinguish the features of
the few people who passed. It was very still, too. Off to our left,
towards Canal Street, the roar of wheels over the massive pavement was
to be heard, but few sounds broke the stillness near our balcony. Some
distance down the street a clear, ringing voice was carolling the page's
song from "Mignon"; across the way two or three darkies were chattering
in that indescribable language that sounds like French, yet is no more
French than Siamese, the patois of the Creole negroes; but not a wheel
or hoof awakened the echoes of the compact rows of old-fashioned houses.

Our landlady came out and looked uneasily up and down.

"I'm sure I don't know what to make of this," said she. "Ordinarily
Royal Street is gay in the evening. To-night it is still as a cemetery.
I know something is going to happen. A neighbor of mine on Chartres
Street, just back of us, says that hundreds of men have been going down
there for the last hour,--going down towards Jackson Square,--and they
had guns, most all of them."

It was just then that somewhere near us a clock began striking nine.

Hardly had the last stroke died, quivering away through the still night
air, when from the direction of the great cathedral, opposite the very
square she named, there came a sudden and startling uproar, a rattling
volley of small-arms, a chorus of yells that made the welkin ring; then
a pandemonium of shots, shouts, and yells all together. Instantly,
people below could be seen rushing to close their shutters; the
chattering darkies disappeared around the corner, and we had sprung to
our feet and were listening excitedly to the clamor, which increased
with every moment. Pauline quickly stepped in-doors; her first thought
was for her lover, and she had gone to his door. Kitty, very pale, was
grasping the balcony rail and looking appealingly up in Harrod's face.
He and I gazed questioningly at each other. Full a minute we stood there
before any one spoke. Then Harrod pointed up Royal Street.

"Look! What is this?"

Leaning over the balcony I gazed eagerly up towards the white colonnade
of the St. Charles, glistening and brilliant in the moonlight. Coming
towards us in perfect silence at rapid, shuffling step, with the
moonbeams glancing from their sloping arms and glistening bayonets, was
a column of soldiers. Another moment and they were directly under us,
and with them, drawn by horses, was a large field-piece. I recognized
the uniforms at a glance: they were the police. Rapidly, almost at
double-quick, they filed under the balcony and marched on down the
street. We followed them with our eyes until they turned to the right,
some squares farther east, and waited further developments. The noise of
the firing, the shouts and yells had partially died away, but not
entirely. Suddenly there came a renewal of the clangor; the rattling
fusilade was resumed, then came a volley or two, delivered as though by
word of command; then a deafening roar that shook the windows.

"By Jove, Brandon, I can't stand this," said Colonel Summers. "I _must_
go and see what it means." Then came another tremendous bang. "That's a
twelve-pounder!"

But Kitty and the landlady implored him not to go, and as a final
compromise the latter agreed to guide him through her premises to her
neighbor's house on Chartres Street, where he could find out all that
was going on without being exposed to the danger of the street; and in a
few moments more we were both, he and I, standing on a balcony that
overhung the latter street. Royal Street had been wellnigh deserted.
Chartres Street was a scene of excitement and confusion. Far down to the
left we could see the flash of small-arms and hear the shouts of the
excited men. Directly under us, numbers of citizens were running, some
towards Jackson Square, where the fighting was going on, others towards
Canal Street, as though eager to get out of the way. A man living in the
house had just come in, pale and panting, and to our quick inquiries he
replied that at nine o'clock a great crowd of citizens had suddenly
assaulted the police station opposite Jackson Square; had whipped out
the police and completely gutted the building; that they had things all
their own way until General Badger suddenly appeared with a big gun and
a lot of reinforcements, and now there was going to be a tremendous
fight. Crowds of citizens were coming from every direction and hemming
in the police, and no more reinforcements could reach them, said our
informant.

Even as he spoke, we saw a large body of men in civilian garb, but many
or most of them armed with shot-guns and rifles, coming up Chartres
Street from the Square. Halting at the corner below us, some twenty or
thirty of them were told off and left there; the others went on. Their
leaders spoke in low tones to the people they met in the street, and the
latter turned back as though in implicit obedience. In five minutes,
except the silent groups of armed men at the corner, Chartres Street was
as deserted as at dawn of day. The firing and noise had ceased.

"There are crowds going down Custom-House Street and the levee," said
our still panting friend. "These parties are being thrown out in every
direction to prevent more of the police from getting in to help Badger;
then in course of an hour we'll have five thousand citizens down there
around the Square, and if the United States troops don't interfere it
will be all up with the police."

In eager interest Harrod and I waited. Below us the party at the corner
had posted two sentinels, who were pacing across the street in most
approved soldierly fashion. Every now and then a distant cheer was heard
over towards the levee,--fresh bodies of citizens were coming in or
somebody was making a speech perhaps. Harrod went back to the house to
reassure Pauline, but speedily returned. Vinton was still sleeping
quietly, and the doctor was there with the ladies. He said it was
understood on the street that at ten o'clock the citizens were going to
resume the attack and with every prospect of success. Already they had
an overwhelming force.

I looked at my watch. It was just ten minutes of ten. Over on the levee
the hoarse shouts of the crowd could be heard at more frequent
intervals. Far up the street, towards Canal, I could see a dense black
mass blocking the entrance, evidently a crowd of people drawn thither by
curiosity, but restrained by a sense of danger from coming farther
towards the scene of action. The sentries still paced the streets at the
corners above and below us. Two squares farther down towards the
cathedral we could see the other sentries pacing to and fro. "Those are
the police pickets," said our previous informant; "just wait five
minutes and you'll see them skip."

Again I nervously looked at my watch. I was trembling with suppressed
excitement. The police station was only four squares away to our left. I
thought I could see the moonbeams gleaming on the big gun that our
friend and fellow-citizen said the police had run out in the middle of
the street and pointed towards the levee.

Suddenly there came a racket towards Canal Street. We all leaned over
the balcony and gazed eagerly in that direction. A single black shadow
came swiftly down the middle of the street. We heard the loud clatter of
iron-shod hoofs on the stone-block pavement. A horseman riding at full
gallop came flashing through the moonlight. "Who comes there?" shouted
the sentries above us. "Don't stop him!" yelled some authoritative voice
as the horseman, never heeding either challenge or rebuke, thundered
along almost at racing speed. As he sped under the balcony I did not
need to see the glittering aiguillettes and shoulder-knots, or hear the
clank of the cavalry sabre, to recognize the youngest of the general's
aides-de-camp. Again he was challenged at the lower corner, and some
excitable party in the crowd fired a gun. My nerves jumped in quick
response, but on went the officer. Then we heard shouts farther down and
two more shots, this time from the police, and then Harrod grabbed my
arm.

"Come on; let's go and see it. I can't stand this." And leading the way
he plunged down the stairs, I following.

"You can't get through there, gentlemen," said the leader of the party
below us; "the police hold the street below." So we headed for the
levee, two squares away; found a surging crowd there, but, half running,
half walking, we pushed ahead, speedily finding ourselves at the
outskirts of a great throng of men spreading out over the broad levee
towards Jackson Square. Under the gas-lamp at the corner, now surrounded
by a dense throng, we could see the aide-de-camp, seated on his panting
horse and in animated conversation with some of the citizens nearest
him. I had met the young officer and knew him slightly, and was eager to
hear what he might say, but it was impossible to get nearer. In a
moment, however, he turned away and rode back towards the police
station. A tall, gray-headed gentleman, of soldierly bearing and
address, stepped upon a box or barrel and spoke briefly to the crowd,--

"Gentlemen,--General Emory sends word that in compliance with his orders
the United States troops are now marching to the defence of the police.
There is nothing further for us to do. You will therefore disperse."

And without a word, in perfect quiet and order, the crowd began to break
up and move off up and down the levee. Curious as usual to see all there
was to be seen, I suggested to Harrod that we should go to the station.
He assented, and we elbowed our way through the crowd; reached the
street that runs along the upper side of the Square from the levee to
Chartres Street; found it utterly deserted, and so, rapidly pushed
ahead. Presently we drew near enough to see that the head of the street
was occupied by the cannon and its detachment, and a company of police.
The next instant, half a dozen bayonets came flashing down upon us. We
were surrounded by a squad of men under command of a darky sergeant, and
with loud summons to surrender, and much excited adjuration not to
resist if we didn't want our heads blown off, Colonel Summers and myself
were roughly seized and hustled towards the station.

"Here's two of the d--d scoundrels anyway," was our introduction to the
men in the ranks as we were hurried along, and my very vehement
protestations were lost amid the chorus of jeers with which we were
greeted. Already we were within a few yards of the station-house door,
when I caught sight of the aide-de-camp talking with the chief of
police. I shouted his name, despite the savage order from my captors to
shut my mouth if I didn't want to be killed, and instantly he recognized
me, sprang forward, and ordered the police to stand back, which they
sulkily did. I breathlessly introduced Colonel Summers, and he too was
freed from the rude grasp of the two stalwart "peelers" who held him.
Then the chief came up. Explanations followed, and despite my
indignation we had a general laugh.

"My men are somewhat nervous to-night," said he, apologetically. "Even
the full uniform of the captain here did not protect him, you see; the
pickets up the street fired at him as he came to the rescue, but I will
send a sergeant with you to see you safely through the lines." So after
taking a look at the demolished station-house, we were courteously
escorted up Chartres Street, and in a few minutes we were laughingly
telling our adventures to the ladies on our gallery.

Even as Harrod was in the midst of the recital, there was heard the
rapid tramp of many hoofs up the street, and a troop of cavalry came
sweeping down at rapid trot. Well out to the front, followed by his
trumpeter, rode a tall, slender young officer, whose form was now
familiar to us all. He glanced up at our balcony as he passed beneath
us, the moonlight shining full in his brave young face. Pauline waved
her handkerchief; a gauntleted hand returned the salute; and with
Kitty's eyes furtively following him Frank Amory swept by.



CHAPTER XI.


Later in the night, after the ladies had retired, Harrod and I once more
walked down to the square to see how things were going on. All was very
quiet. A battalion of regular infantry had stacked its arms in the
middle of the street in front of the dismantled station-house; the men
were seated along the curbstone; some in their weariness were lying
asleep upon the stone pavement; the officers, grouped under the archways
of the old police court on the other side of the street, were puffing
their cigarettes and sleepily discussing the situation. Major Williams
and his command were not there; the battalion on duty was one which had
been for some time past stationed at Jackson Barracks below the city. A
little farther down we came upon Amory and his troop making a night of
it in front of the Cathedral. The horses were still saddled, though with
loosened girths, but had been unbitted, and were busily munching at the
hay spread before them on the pavement. Mars himself was seated on the
curbstone with a grain-sack in his lap, petting his horse's head as that
quadruped blissfully devoured the oats with which his thoughtful master
had heaped the sack. Harrod hailed him gleefully.

"That takes a fellow back to old times, lad, only oats were scarcer than
horses."

Mars held out his unoccupied hand, looking up with rather a tired smile
on his face.

"How's Vinton?" he asked.

"Very much better, we think," said Harrod, "though he is very weak, and
has had an ugly siege. I think he will be housed some time yet."

"Did you see--did you happen to hear of any letter for me at Sandbrook
before you came away? I told them to forward everything, but nothing has
come."

"No," replied Harrod. "Had there been anything I think they would have
told us, though it may be that letters were simply re-directed and
dropped in the Corinth mail."

There was so much anxiety in Amory's face that it suddenly occurred to
me to ask, "Your mother is not ill, I hope? You have heard from her?"

"Mother is quite well, thanks. I had telegraphed her of our move, and a
letter reached me yesterday. This was--I rather expected another
letter." And even in the pale moonlight it was plain that Mr. Amory was
blushing vividly. Instantly I was reminded of the letter he had received
at camp, and received with such evident excitement. Was it from that
source he now looked for another? If so, what did it mean? Mars was
getting to be a mystery.

"When are you coming to see us?" asked the colonel.

"I don't know. I'd like to come at once, but you see how I'm fixed,--the
only officer with the troop."

"Well, if all should be quiet to-morrow, come and dine with us at
Moreau's at six, will you?" persisted Harrod. "There will be no one but
ourselves and the ladies, you know; and if you are pressed for time just
meet us there. We'll expect you."

"I would be delighted to," answered the young fellow, though in a
strangely embarrassed and hesitating way, "but I really cannot promise.
You see how it is, don't you?" he continued, looking almost appealingly
at me; but I chose not to "see how it was," and only insisted on
seconding Harrod's invitation. All the old Adam in me was wild with
curiosity to see him with Kitty once more, and his reluctance or
hesitancy was something that only served to make me more persistent.
Have you never noticed that amiable trait in many a man or woman who,
having passed the meridian of life him- or herself, seems bent on
directing in the most trivial matters the plans and movements of younger
persons? It was no earthly business of mine, and yet I was determined
to have Mars come and see Kitty whether he wanted to or not. Harrod, of
course, was actuated by no such motives.

Early on the following day, on going to my office, the few letters
deposited on the desk were naturally the first things to be disposed of.
Almost wearily I glanced at the superscriptions, for nobody in New
Orleans felt particularly business-like that morning. Some were from
correspondents up the railway; others from "down the coast." I simply
glanced at their envelopes, and had just about completed the list, when
suddenly hand and eye rested upon a dainty little missive, an envelope
of creamy white, and addressed to me--to _me_ in the very handwriting
that had so attracted my attention and curiosity in Amory's tent at
Sandbrook. Here was the same exquisite chirography. I knew I had seen it
before. I knew now why it seemed so familiar then. For six years or
thereabouts it had not fallen under my gaze; and when it did, six years
before, it was only that a proud papa might exhibit to me the beautiful
writing of his daughter, then in her last year at school in New York
City, the youngest child of a sister long since dead. It was the
handwriting of my pretty niece, Bella Grayson,--Bella, whom I had not
seen since her girlhood, and all at once it flashed across my perturbed
brain that Frank Amory's mysterious correspondent was this self-same
Bella. Here was a revelation indeed!

For some minutes I was too much confounded to open the letter. Then I
proceeded to read it. A very bright, graceful, well-expressed note it
proved to be. Uncle George was appropriately reminded that it was more
than two years since he had written to papa. Papa did not propose to
write again until his letters were answered; but, feeling a trifle
uneasy while reading the accounts of the stormy times in New Orleans,
and having seen occasional mention of Uncle George in connection with
Ku-Klux excitements, she had been commissioned to make inquiries as to
Uncle George's health and fortunes, to express the hope that Uncle
George would no longer neglect them as he had, and to subscribe herself
very affectionately, Uncle George's niece, Bella.

So far so good. Uncle George had very vivid recollections of Miss Bella
in her graduating years, and had been vastly impressed by the vivacity,
wit, and sparkle of the bright little lady who made his last visit to
her father's home so pleasant a thing to look back upon. From that time
to this he had never seen her, but never had she been entirely dropped
from his remembrance. For four years or so he had occasionally occupied
himself in the metaphorical selection of an appropriate wedding-present,
as home letters gave indications that Miss Bella was contemplating
matrimony; but it never seemed to pass the point of contemplation. Twice
at least, on authoritative announcements, Miss Bella had been "engaged."
A dozen times at least, if reports were to be relied upon, Miss Bella
was on the verge of that social entanglement. It was in the winter of
'65 that she had first begun to exercise that involuntary gift of
fascination over Uncle George which seemed to involve him, as it did all
masculines who came within the sphere of her movements. I say
involuntary, because then and ever afterwards, Miss Bella was wont to
protest that she was no more conscious of any effort or desire to
attract than she was of breathing when asleep. She had spent some months
of the preceding summer and autumn at West Point. She was _petite_,
graceful, not absolutely a beauty, yet there was something about those
large, clear, heavily-lashed gray eyes of hers that had all the effect
and power of beauty; and even when only eighteen, as she was then, Miss
Bella had learned their influence, and, involuntarily of course, how to
use them. I had not been a witness of the campaign itself, but I could
not live in their cosey home in the city for a week without becoming
measurably aware of its results. The postman's visits to the Grayson
residence were as regular as his rounds, and it often happened that
letters deposited on the hall-table were left there some hours,
awaiting Miss Bella's return from calls or drives or strolls with her
society friends of both sexes, and that I, in search of my own mail,
should look over the pile on the marble slab. There was always one
postmarked West Point; there was sometimes more; and there were no less
than three separate and distinct handwritings thus making frequent calls
at our house. In my avuncular capacity I had ventured to say something
intended to be arch with regard to those letters. It was at the
breakfast-table. Miss Bella was pouring coffee, and doing it with a deft
and graceful turn of the wrist that showed her slender white hand to
vast advantage. For all answer she had given me one of those searching
glances from under the deep lids; looked me squarely in the face, though
a merry smile was hovering about the corners of her rosy mouth; and,
neither admitting nor denying the correspondence, had disarmed me by a
prompt inquiry as to whether I really thought it improper for her to
hear from her cadet friends.

No one could ever call it a correspondence, for no one ever saw Miss
Bella writing, or heard of her mailing letters to West Point or anywhere
else. Between her and her devoted papa the closest sympathy and alliance
existed. He seemed to take a jovial delight in Bella's fascinations. She
ruled him with a winning and imperious sway that was delicious to see,
and Uncle George speedily fell into the same groove, with this
difference: she may have told her father who her correspondents were;
she never did tell Uncle George. What was more, Uncle George never could
find out. Despite several efforts to win the young lady's confidence in
his somewhat bulky and blundering way, Uncle George had had to give it
up. She was impenetrable as a sphinx.

And now, six years afterwards, here she reappeared in his life; and, if
Uncle George was not very much mistaken, Miss Bella was the
correspondent whose letter had caused Frank Amory so much excitement and
emotion that last day in camp at Sandbrook. It was her letter he was so
eagerly awaiting now. And all this time----

Well. To the neglect of other letters I sat at the desk pondering over
this maidenly missive; then with an effort refolded and was about to
close it, when my eyes were attracted by some lines on the outer page.
Who was it who first said that the gist of a woman's letter would always
be found in the postscript? There, on page four of the tiny note-sheet,
were the words:

    "P. S.--So you have met Mr. Amory of the cavalry, and you had quite
    an exciting adventure, too. Should you see him again pray remember
    me to him, though it is quite possible he has forgotten me. We were
    good friends during his 'first class camp.'"

Oh, Bella Grayson! "Pray remember me to him," indeed! "Quite possible he
has forgotten me." Upon my word, young lady, this is too much even for a
long-suffering uncle. Asking me to remember her to a young fellow with
whom she was actually in correspondence at the time! For a moment I was
fairly indignant; but something of the witchery of Bella's own caressing
voice and manner seemed to steal from the folds of the tiny note. A
dozen things that had been told me of her from time to time came
floating back to my brain, and--I couldn't help it--I began to laugh.

Once, just before his coming South, Miss Bella had appeared before Uncle
George in a state of indignation. A young man whom he rather liked had
been one of her devotees for a month or more, and then suddenly ceased
his attentions. Bella's eyes flashed as she half reluctantly related to
Uncle George (in response to his urgent request) the circumstances which
led to the sudden break. "He dared to say to me that, if no more
attractive subject happened to be available, it was his belief I would
flirt with a chimney-sweep!" and then, when Uncle George burst into a
fit of uncontrollable merriment, Miss Bella had first flushed with
indignation, then her irresistible sense of the humorous began to get
the better of her resolution to be deeply offended, and presently she
laughed too; laughed till the tears ran down her cheeks; laughed as only
Bella could laugh, the most musical, ringing, delightful laugh ever
heard; and then, suddenly recollecting herself, she had pronounced Uncle
George an unfeeling wretch, and flounced out of the room in high
dudgeon.

Now, it is contrary to all principles of story-telling to introduce an
utterly new character towards the fag end of a narrative, but Mr.
Brandon makes no pretensions to being a story-teller. He can only relate
things as they happened; and never, until this stage of the game, had
his fair niece Bella appeared as a factor in the plot so far as his
knowledge went. Nevertheless, it was vividly apparent to Mr. Brandon
that now at least she was destined to become a leading lady, a power
behind the throne, whether she appeared in person upon the boards or
not. He recalled the frequent allusions to her in the letters that used
to reach him from the North in the days when he found time to keep up
correspondence with the scattered family. There was a tone of almost
tragic despair in the letters of one of her aunts whenever Bella was the
subject under discussion. Wherever she went--and she went pretty much
everywhere--Miss Grayson was the centre of a knot of admirers. Her
summers were spent at West Point or on "the Sound;" her winters in New
York or Syracuse; and the oddest thing about it all was that, despite
her great attractiveness among the beaus of society, she retained an
absolute dominion over the hearts of a little coterie of schoolmates,--a
sextette of as bright and intelligent and attractive girls as Uncle
George had ever seen; two of them undoubted beauties; all of them
gracious and winning; yet, as though by common and tacit understanding,
when Bella appeared in their midst, and the men concentrated their
attentions upon her, the others contentedly, even approvingly, so it
seemed, fell into the background. They had their own personal
worshippers, to be sure, but they were paraded for Bella's inspection
and approval before being decided upon. Two of the sisterhood married
within a few years of their graduation after receiving Bella's sanction.
It had even been alleged that, involuntarily as usual, Bella had
diverted the growing admiration of one youth from a sister to herself;
but the unruffled sweetness of the sisterly relations seemed to give the
lie to that statement.

But Bella's fascinations were not so placidly accepted with the opposite
sex. It had been a pet theory of hers that cadets and officers were fair
game for flirtation _à l'outrance_. She had become involved in her very
first visit to the Academy in two very serious affairs; retaining
complete mastery over her own susceptibilities, while obtaining mastery
as complete over those of two cadet admirers who chanced to be rather
close friends. One of them, at least, had been desperately in earnest at
the outset; both of them were before they got through; and Bella was, or
professed to be, totally incapable of believing that they had intended
more than a mere flirtation. To her credit be it said, she was
grievously distressed when the actual truth came to light; but her
theories were in nowise shaken, for with the following year a still more
desperate victim was at her feet, while the singed moths of the previous
season looked gloomily and sardonically on the throes which they had so
recently suffered. It was an attribute of Bella's as marvellous as the
ascendency she maintained over her sisterhood, that even in jilting an
admirer she had so sweet, sympathetic, caressing, and self-reproachful a
manner as to make the poor devil feel that the whole thing was his own
fault, or that of his blindness; and to send him on his way comforted,
perhaps enslaved. She never could succeed in absolutely and definitely
disposing of a lover. New ones might come, and did come, every season of
the year. She had them wherever she moved; but Bella could no more let
one go than a cat could a captured mouse,--another statement at her
expense that first excited her wrath and afterwards nearly convulsed
her by its humorous accuracy. She would turn her back on him; lose sight
of him to all appearances; but let him but display a desire for freedom;
let him but make an effort to get away from the toils; and under the
_patte de velours_ was an inflexible grasp that once more stretched the
victim panting at her feet.

And yet she was so winning, so plaintive, so appealing with it all!
Volumes of pity and trust and sympathy beamed from Bella's clear gray
eyes. Volumes of half-playful reproach and condolence in the letters she
would write. "Even in bidding you go she implores you to stay," was once
said of her by an exasperated yet enthralled victim, and Uncle George
was quite ready to believe it.

And Bella was still unmarried; still careering over the old preserves;
still maintaining, apparently, her old theory that "men are deceivers
ever;" and still, to judge from recent developments, bringing down fresh
victims among the too inflammable youngsters of the battalion of cadets.
Now, was Frank Amory a victim in good earnest, or only a narrow escape
from being one? She wrote to him, but that proved nothing: she wrote to
a dozen, and all at the same time. Aunt Ethel declared of her that she
was writing to two classmates an entire winter, receiving almost daily
missives from both, and responding when she felt disposed; and that not
until they came to be stationed at the same post; to occupy the same
quarters; to make the simultaneous discovery that each had parted with
his class ring; and, one never-to-be-forgotten day, that each was
receiving letters from the same damsel; had either of the young fellows
the faintest idea that he was not the sole possessor of such attentions.
It was alleged of Bella that she could have worn a class ring on every
finger if she chose; but whatever may have been her object in accepting
them, it was not for purposes of self-glorification. Her most intimate
friend never knew whose rings she had; never knew how many; and Bella's
flirtations, whatever may have been the wide-spread destruction she
effected, were subjects that never could be spoken of in her presence. A
dozen men were believed to confide in her, and she held their confidence
inviolable. No one of them ever extracted from her the faintest
admission that she ever received a line or an attention from any one
else.

Now, what in the world was I to do? Here was a complication that baffled
me completely. If Mars were really smitten with my fascinating niece,
how far had it gone? That he had been I could readily believe; but,
whether she looked it or not, Bella must now be older than he, and
probably had only been--involuntarily, as usual--amusing herself with
his devotions. And now he was interested in Kitty,--of that I felt
certain,--and, by Jove! I had it. He felt himself still bound by the old
ties; still fettered by some real or imaginary allegiance to his West
Point affinity; still--"Why, the whole thing was plain as A, B, C,"
thought I, in my masculine profundity. "Bella would not accept, could
not discard him, and here she has kept him dangling at her beck and call
ever since." I decided to write to Bella,--oh, the bewildering idiocy of
some men!--and I wrote forthwith.

That evening a letter winding up as follows was on its way northward:

"Yes, I have met your friend, young Amory; have seen a good deal of him,
in fact, and am greatly interested in him. He strikes me as a gallant
young soldier and gentleman, and his evident admiration for a fair young
friend of mine--an heiress, by the way--commands my entire sympathy.
I've half a mind to take you into my confidence, Bella, for perhaps you
can dispel my perplexity. I _think_--mind you, I only say I
_think_--that the young people are quite ready to fall in love with one
another. They have been thrown together under most romantic
circumstances, but he has behaved very oddly of late, and I could not
but indulge in some theory as to the cause. I have learned that he has
some young lady correspondent up North, and, knowing what susceptible
fellows cadets are (from your own statements), it has occurred to me
that he may have gotten into some entanglement there from which he would
now gladly escape. Now, Bella, put on your thinking-cap. You have been
there every summer for six or eight years (oh!), and although much above
cadets now I fancy, you still retain your old ascendency over the sex.
You knew Amory well, probably, and possibly he has made you a confidante
of his affairs. What young girl was there to whom he was devoted?
Perhaps you and I can help him out of his boyish folly and into
something that is worth having."

Was there _ever_ such a colossal ass?



CHAPTER XII.


That evening we dined at Moreau's. Things had quieted down in the city,
though the troops still remained on duty in the streets; and it was with
eager anticipation of meeting Frank Amory that I wended my way to the
tidy old restaurant with its sanded floor, its glittering array of
little tables, and the ever-attentive waiters. Colonel Summers and his
party had not yet arrived. Would Monsieur step up to the room and wait
their coming? Monsieur would; and, taking the _Evening Picayune_ to
while away the time, Mr. Brandon seated himself on the balcony
overlooking Canal Street,--busy, bustling, thronged as usual; yet
bustling in the languid, Latinized sense of the term; bustling in a way
too unlike our Northern business centres to justify the use of the term.
No sign of disorder or turmoil was manifest. The banquettes on both
sides were covered with ladies and children; the street-cars on the
esplanade were filled with passengers going in every direction; the
booths, fruit-stands, confectioneries were all doing a thriving
business; the newsboys were scurrying to and fro in their picturesque
tatters screaming the headlines of their evening bulletins; carriages
and cabriolets were rattling to and fro; the setting sun shone hot on
the glaring façade of the stone Custom-House down the street; and
beyond, across the crowded and dusty levee, dense volumes of black smoke
were rising from the towering chimneys of the boats even now pushing
from the shore and ploughing huskily up the stream. All spoke of
business activity and lively trade. The mercurial spirit of the populace
seemed to have subsided to the normal level; and the riot of yesterday
was a thing of the distant past.

Voices on the stairs called me into the cosey room, and Kitty entered
radiant; with her--not Mars but Mr. Turpin; behind her, Colonel Summers
and the doctor. Pauline had again decided to remain and take tea with
the landlady, but Vinton was improving, said Harrod, who instantly added
an inquiry for Amory.

"He has not been here, nor have I seen him to-day. Have you, Mr.
Turpin?" I asked.

"No, sir. Amory and his troop were sent up to Jeffersonville at noon, so
I learned at headquarters, and they have not come back since."

"Then we must go on without him," said Harrod, and dinner was ordered
forthwith.

Seated by Kitty's side, Mr. Turpin was soon absorbed in the duty of
making himself agreeable. Evidently they had been talking of Amory
before coming in, and, whether piqued at the latter's conduct in not yet
having been to see her, or worse, at his having been there to inquire
for Vinton and not for her, Kitty was in the very mood to render her new
admirer's attentions acceptable. She was sparkling with animation. She
was listening with flattering eagerness to everything he said, laughing
merrily at every sally; urging him to tell more of his cadet days and
army life; paying no heed to any of the rest of us; plainly, only too
plainly, bent on fascinating her infantry friend, and fascination it
plainly was. Mr. Turpin was head over heels in love with her before
dinner was half over; and while we oldsters were discussing our cigars
and _pousse café_ on the balcony after that repast, they were seated on
the sofa merrily, intently chatting together, as firm friends as though
they had known one another from childhood. So intent that my entrance
for a match in nowise disturbed them; so utterly intent that they never
saw what I saw at once,--Frank Amory standing at the door.

To my eager welcome he responded absently. Turpin sprang up and held out
his hand, which was taken in a perfunctory sort of way, but there was no
heartiness in his reply to the cordial greeting of his classmate. He
bowed in a constrained manner to Kitty, who had flushed with
surprise--possibly some other emotion--when she caught sight of him; and
then without further notice of either her or her companion, he passed on
to where Harrod was standing at the open window, and eagerly inquired
for Vinton, but his bearing was forced and unnatural. He had already
dined, he said, and had been unable to get back from Jeffersonville with
the troop until late, too late to accept Colonel Summers's invitation;
so he had merely dropped in to inquire after his captain, as he thought
we would still be here; and now, he said, he must hasten to the
warehouse on Magazine Street, as there was no telling how soon he and
his men might be needed again. We urged him to stay and make one of a
party to go to the theatre, but Mars was adamant. His refusal was even
curt. "Pray make my excuses and apologies to the ladies. _I'll_ go down
through the hall," were his parting words. And so, without even having
touched Kitty's hand or spoken a sentence to her by way of welcome, Mr.
Amory took his leave.

Was he "miffed" because he had found Turpin in happy _tête-à-tête_ with
her? Had he hoped to reserve that happiness to himself; or was there
some deeper reason to account for his avoidance of her? Kitty evidently
adopted the first-mentioned explanation of his conduct; ascribed his
cold salutation and sudden departure to jealousy,--absolute
jealousy,--and I am bound to say that so far from being depressed or
saddened by his conduct she seemed to derive additional inspiration or
stimulant. A burning color had mounted to her cheeks; her eyes had taken
an almost defiant sparkle; her coquetry with Turpin became more marked
than before; and, as though elated at the betrayal of Amory's feelings,
and excited by the exhibition of his jealousy, she seemed in
extraordinary spirits. Turpin promptly accepted the invitation to go to
the theatre, provided he could obtain Major Williams's permission to be
absent from the battalion during the evening, and went off to see about
it forthwith, agreeing to join us at the Royal Street lodgings in
fifteen minutes. In less than fifteen minutes we were there. Kitty ran
blithely up-stairs to see Pauline, and then Harrod turned to me.

"Brandon, did you notice anything wrong with Amory to-night?" he asked,
anxiously.

"He was excited, perhaps upset, at seeing Turpin where he was; but why
do you ask?"

"It was something more than that, I fear. Did you notice his eyes, his
color? Did you feel his hand?"

"He was flushed, I noticed, and I thought it due to riding all day in
the sun; but his hand I did not touch."

"It was burning as though with fever. Can he have been seized as Vinton
was?" said the colonel. And for a moment we looked at one another in
silence. "You know he has been up and around now for several nights, and
exposed all day to the heat of the sun. The extremes are dangerous to
those not accustomed to our Louisiana climate, and if he had contracted
any disorder this would bring it out. Here comes Mr. Turpin," continued
the colonel. "Let us ask him what he observed."

Turpin joined us with his quick, springy step. "The major says I may
go," he spoke blithely; "but is not Amory coming?"

"It was of Amory we wanted to ask you," said Harrod. "He seemed very
unlike himself the few minutes he was at Moreau's. Did you note anything
out of the way?"

Turpin flushed. "Why--yes," said he, hesitatingly. "He seemed a little
queer--a good deal stiff and formal and----"

"But as to his health. Do you think he is well?"

"Why," said Turpin, with a sudden start, "I had not thought of that. I
ascribed his manner to--to--well, he always was a quick, impulsive
fellow, and I thought perhaps he regarded me as being in the way; but
his hand _was_ hot,--hot as fire. I'm ashamed I did not think of it
before."

And then he stopped short, for Kitty re-entered. She walked smilingly
up to Mr. Turpin with extended hand.

"You can go?" she said. "I'm so glad. How soon must we start? Pauline is
coming down a moment." And with Pauline's coming we forgot for the time
being our talk about Amory.

Very gentle, very lovely, looked Miss Summers as she stood answering our
warm inquiries about the major. He was so much better; was sleeping
quietly and naturally, the nurse said; and the doctor was so delighted
with the improvement, and had let her sit for a while by the bedside and
talk to him, though the major himself was forbidden to talk. She was
_so_ glad we were going to the theatre. It must be wearisome staying
around the house for us, though she could not bear to go. And so we bade
her good-night and went on our way.

The Varieties was crowded that night, and an admirable play was on the
stage; but my thoughts were incessantly wandering back to Mars, to his
strange behavior, and to Bella Grayson and her possible connection with
his changed manner. Then, too, I was worried about Harrod's
theory,--that the boy was ill. All things considered, I could pay very
little attention to what was going on, either in the audience or on the
stage. Our seats were in the front row of the dress-circle, a little to
the right of the centre of the house; and during the intermission
between the first and second acts Kitty and Turpin had been keeping up
an incessant chatter, though so low-toned and semi-confidential that I
heard nothing of what was said. The house was very full, as I say, and
many gentlemen were standing in the side aisles over the proscenium
boxes. Others were swarming about the outer row of dress-circle seats.
Others still were seated on the steps leading down into the parquet. The
curtain rose upon the second act, and Kitty, sitting next to me, with
Turpin on her other side, drew back and glanced one minute up in my
face. All animation, life, sparkle, and saucy triumph she looked; there
was a mischievous challenge in her laughing eyes as they met mine, then
wandered off to the stage. Another moment and I turned to her to whisper
some comment upon the costume worn by one of the actresses and--how can
I describe the change that had come over her face? Pale, startled, yes,
frightened. She was staring across the parquet towards a group of men
standing in the outer aisle. Following her eyes I too looked, and there,
glaring at our party, with a strange, wild, uncanny expression on his
face, was Frank Amory.

For an instant nothing was said. Then, involuntarily, I half rose. His
eyes met mine, and, without a sign of recognition, he dropped back in
the throng and disappeared. "Did you see him?" I exclaimed to Harrod.
"Watch! See where he goes! It is Amory, and something is wrong."

The colonel looked at me in startled wonderment, but a glance at Kitty's
face seemed to bring him confirmation of my statement. I rose and looked
about in my excitement and anxiety, but an indignant "Down in front!"
from some half-dozen mouths in rear brought me back to seat and senses.
Not until the close of the act could I get out. Then, followed by
Harrod, I worked my way into the vestibule, searched the corridors, the
bar-room, the main stairway, and the broad entrance. No sign of him.
Several infantry officers were standing there, but, in answer to my
appeal, said they had seen nothing of Lieutenant Amory; but at the gate
the door-keeper remembered a young officer going out in the middle of
the second act and declining a return check. I determined to go at once
to his lodgings. Harrod would stay and look after Kitty and Turpin.

In half an hour I had reached the warehouse. A sleepy sentinel told me
that the lieutenant was not there. He occupied a room "over beyant," in
a large frame boarding-house. Ringing the bell, a colored servant
answered. Would he show me to Lieutenant Amory's room? He would, and we
went up the main stairway and out on a back gallery to one of those
little ten by six boxes, without which no New Orleans boarding-place is
complete. No answer to our knock, but the door was unlocked, and I
entered and turned up the light. There stood his trunk, open. Papers and
letters were strewn on the bureau, and among them, almost the first to
catch my eye, was a dainty envelope addressed in that graceful,
unmistakable hand to Lieutenant Frank Amory at Sandbrook, and forwarded
thence to New Orleans. He had had another letter, then, from Bella.

In answer to inquiries, the servant said that Mr. Amory had come in
"lookin' mighty tired" late in the afternoon; had taken a bath, dressed,
and gone out again without saying a word to anybody, and had not been
back since. Telling him he might go, I decided to await Amory's return.
I knew not where to search for him.

It was then late. The bells of the churches over on Camp Street and
Lafayette Square were chiming ten o'clock. All below was very quiet. The
distant roar of wheels down towards Canal Street, and the tinkle of the
mule-cars were the only sounds that struck upon the ear. I felt
strangely worried and depressed, and sought for something with which to
occupy my thoughts and keep me from brooding. Books there were none, for
Mars had had no time for reading since his arrival; paper, envelopes,
some open letters were on the bureau with her envelope, but the letter
it had contained was gone. Tossing them over with impatient hand, I
came upon two envelopes addressed in his vigorous hand; one to his
mother, the other to Miss Isabel R. Grayson, care of Hon. H. C. Grayson,
Syracuse, New York,--further confirmation of my theory. Then there were
some scraps of paper on which he had been scribbling; and on one,
written perhaps a dozen times, was the name "Kittie." That was his way,
then, of spelling it.

An hour passed by. Eleven o'clock came, and no Amory. I could stand it
no longer. Once more I went out on Magazine Street, and over to the
warehouse. This time a corporal of the guard met me and seemed to know
me.

"No, sir. The lieutenant hasn't been in all night, sir, and it isn't his
way at all. He may be over at headquarters. Shall I send, sir?"

No. I decided to go myself.

Late as it was, a broad glare of light shone out from the upper windows
of the handsome brown-stone residence, occupied at the time by the
commanding general as the offices of himself and the staff. The lower
hall was open. I entered and went up-stairs to the first open door. One
or two officers in undress uniform were lounging about; and, seeing me,
Colonel Newhall sprang up and came hastily forward, inviting me to
enter. I inquired at once for Amory, and briefly stated that we feared
he was not well. This brought to his feet the junior aide-de-camp whom
we had seen galloping down Chartres Street the previous night.

"Amory was here early in the evening asking for me," he said, "and he
left this note. I cannot understand. He seems worried about something."

I took the note and read,--

     "DEAR PARKER: Both times I've been in to see you to-day, you
     happened to be out. I _must_ see you. I must get a leave and go
     North at once. Can you suggest any way of helping me? Some one must
     take the troop. I'll be in this evening. Do wait for me.

     "Yours,

     "AMORY."

"It is after eleven now and no sign of him," said the aide. "You say you
thought he looked ill?"

"Very ill," I answered, "and I am strangely worried."

"Sit down just a few minutes until I see the general. Then, if possible,
I'll go with you and see if we can find him."

Perhaps ten minutes afterwards we were on our way back to his temporary
quarters, when the aide-de-camp called out to a man whom I saw hurrying
along the opposite side of the street under the gas-lamp, and the very
corporal who was on duty at the stables came springing over the
cobble-stones.

"I was looking for you, sir," he said, breathlessly. "Did you see the
lieutenant?"

"No; where is he?"

"I don't know, sir. Directly after you left he jumped off a street-car
and ordered us to saddle up. I routed out the first sergeant and the
men, but before they could get their clothes and belts on he had leaped
on his horse and galloped off down the street like mad. We don't know
what to do, sir."

"Which way did he go?" quickly asked the officer with me.

"Down the street, sir, towards Canal."

"Give me one of your fastest horses. Tell the first sergeant I want to
see him at once, and let the men unsaddle again."

"What do you think it is?" I anxiously asked.

"Fever; and he is twice as delirious as Vinton was. We must find him at
once."



CHAPTER XIII.


That night we had a chase such as I had never before indulged in. The
aide-de-camp believed Frank Amory to be ill with fever:--delirium in
fact, but to my knowledge delirium was unusual as a first symptom of an
ordinary Southern fever. He might be feverish; might indeed be ill; but
that alone would not be apt to cause his extraordinary excitement. Two
or three officers at headquarters had remarked his strange manner and
absent-minded replies, said the aide, while he had been there early in
the evening, but at that time his face was pale rather than flushed.

At the stables on Magazine Street we again questioned the sergeant. "Did
the lieutenant appear to be under any strong excitement?" asked the
aide-de-camp, and the sergeant eyed him askance a moment as though he
misunderstood the drift of the question, seeing which I interposed,--

"The captain fears that Mr. Amory is seized with just such a fever as
that which prostrated Major Vinton." Whereat the sergeant looked
relieved, and answered,--

"I couldn't say, sir. He never spoke more than to order his horse and
then go off at a gallop. But two or three times lately at Sandbrook he
has done that,--taken his horse and gone off riding at the dead of
night. He may be ill, sir, but I couldn't say."

This news in some way strengthened my view of the case. The fact that he
had frequently or occasionally gone off in a similar manner went to
prove that the ailment was not a new bodily trouble. Knowing what I knew
and felt bound to keep to myself, it was not hard to determine that
mental perturbations, aggravated perhaps by recent fatigues and
excitements, were at the bottom of Amory's strange conduct. None the
less, however, I was eager to find and bring him back. He ought not to
be away from his command at such a time. Directing the sergeant to say
to Mr. Amory that we were in search of him and begged him to wait for us
on his return, the aide-de-camp and I hurried down the street; sought a
cab-stand; and, jumping into one of the light cabriolets that were then
a feature of the New Orleans streets, we drove rapidly down to Vinton's
quarters. I thought Amory might have galloped thither. A dim light was
burning in the sick-room, as we could see from the front. The door was
closed and locked, but I rang, and presently a servant came sleepily
through the hall and stared at me in mild stupefaction. "No. Mr. Amory
hadn't been there." I brushed past the darky and went noiselessly up
the stairs and tapped at Vinton's door. The nurse came and peered at me
through the inch-wide crack: not a whit more would he open the door lest
the night air should be wafted in.

"We fear that Lieutenant Amory is taken ill," I said in a low tone. "He
may come here to see his captain. Try and get him to lie down in Colonel
Summers's room until we get back, if he should come." The nurse nodded;
said that Vinton was sleeping quietly, and directed me to Harrod's door.
I knocked there, and it was opened in a moment.

"What! you, Brandon? Anything wrong?"

"We can't find Amory. He is on horseback and galloping around town all
by himself. They think at headquarters that he may be ill with fever
like Vinton. Mr. Parker and I are hunting for him. If he should come
here, get him into your room and make him lie down, will you?"

"Certainly I will. But, Brandon, had not I better go with you? Are you
sure he is ill? I thought him strange enough at Moreau's, but----"

"I cannot say what it is," I broke in, impatiently. "I must hurry off,
as he must be found as quickly as possible."

"With that I turned away and retraced my steps through the dimly-lighted
hall. Reaching the stairs I paused, for another door had softly opened,
and Pauline's voice, low-toned and anxious, was heard.

"Harrod, what is it?"

"Mr. Amory is ill, I'm afraid," was the reply, and I hurried back to the
street.

Rapidly we drove to the levee, and there at the depot found Major
Williams's sleeping battalion. The aide sprang out and accosted a
sentry. A sergeant came with a lantern and ushered the staff-officer in
among the snoring groups; for the men had thrown themselves in their
blankets upon the wooden flooring. Presently they reappeared, and with
them came Mr. Turpin, hurriedly adjusting his collar and cravat.

"Sheep always was a most excitable fellow," he was saying, "but this
beats me. He hasn't been here at all, and I've no idea where he can have
gone."

Leaving directions what was to be done in case he did appear, we drove
away up Canal Street. It was then nearly two o'clock, but there were
still loungers around the Clay statue; lights gleaming from one or two
"open-all-night" bars and from the cab-lanterns on St. Charles Street.
Our driver pulled up, and Mr. Parker sprang out and exchanged a few
words with a policeman. I could not hear, but saw that the latter
pointed up the street; and the aide came quickly back,--

"Drive on,--right out Canal, and keep a bright lookout for an officer on
horseback," were his orders, as we whirled away over the smooth
pavement.

"That policeman says he saw a young officer gallop out this way not ten
minutes ago, and he's been wondering ever since what was going on. He
walked up as far as Dryades Street to find out, thinking he might have
stopped at the State-House; but all is quiet there, and the patrols told
him the officer went on out Canal, riding like mad."

Evidently, then, Mars had stopped somewhere or had ridden elsewhere
before going out towards the swamps. We peered eagerly up and down the
dimly-lighted cross-streets as we whirled rapidly past them. The lamps
along the broad thoroughfare grew infrequent; the street was deserted.
Once in a while we passed a carriage-load of revellers returning from
the shell road and a supper at the "Lake End." Well out towards the
stables of the street-railway we caught sight of another policeman;
hauled up, and hailed him with anxious questioning. No, he had seen no
officer on horseback; his beat lay along Canal Street, but he had "taken
a turn through a side street after a couple of s'picious-lookin'
parties," and might have been gone four or five minutes. Crack! went the
whip, and we pushed ahead. Gas-lamps now became few and far between;
open stretches of level turf or prairie were visible here and there
between the houses or garden-walls; the moonlight was tempered and
shrouded by low-hanging clouds, and surrounding objects were only dimly
seen. Still we whirled ahead over the smooth-beaten road, and at last
drove rapidly between the high walls of the silent cities of the dead
that bounded the highway near the crossing of the canal. Two or three
loungers were hanging about the dimly-lighted portico of a saloon. Mr.
Parker sprang out and made some rapid inquiries, then hurried back to
the cab.

"He crossed here nearly half an hour ago,--went right on over the
bridge," he exclaimed, as he sprang in and told the driver to whip up.
"Turn to the right," he added. "Drive towards Lake End. It's the only
place he can have gone." And in a moment more the wheels were whirring
over the level track; a dense hedgerow of swamp undergrowth on our left;
the dark waters of the canal on our right.

We passed two or three roadside hostelries, whose enticing lights still
lured the belated or the dissipated into the ready bars. Mr. Parker
scanned them as we drove ahead.

"He never drinks a drop, I hear, and it's no use looking for him there."

Nevertheless, our driver suddenly pulled up in front of a lamp-lighted
entrance. "There's a couple of buggies and a horse in under that shed,"
said he.

The aide-de-camp jumped out and stepped briskly off in the direction
indicated by the driver's hand. Our cab again pulled up. Presently he
emerged from the darkness of the shed.

"It isn't Amory's horse. It's a Louisiana pony," said he. "Wait one
moment and I'll see who's inside."

With that he sprang up the steps and walked rapidly towards the glass
doorways of the bar.

He was in civilian dress except for the forage-cap, which he had hastily
picked up when we left the office. Its gold cord and crossed sabres
gleamed under the lamp as he sharply turned the door-knob and entered
the room. Even without that cap I by this time would have known his
profession; he had that quick, springy, nervous walk and erect carriage
so marked among the younger West-Pointers. My eyes followed him until he
disappeared; so apparently did others.

From the farther end of the gallery two dark forms rose from a sitting
posture, and one of them came tiptoeing along towards the doorway. Our
cab had halted near the steps at the end opposite them, and, despite our
lights, the stealthily-moving figure seemed to pay no attention to us.
Before I had time to conjecture what his object could be, the man
crouched before the door, his hat pulled low over his forehead, and
peered eagerly through the glass. Then he turned his head; gave a low
whistle, and, almost at a run, the second figure, in slouch hat like the
first and with overcoat pulled well up about his ears, hurried to his
side; stooped; peered through, and shook his head.

"Drive up there, quick!" I said. And, as hoof and wheel crunched through
the gravel, the pair drew suddenly back; sprang noiselessly down the
steps and in among the shrubbery out of my sight. Almost at the same
instant Mr. Parker reappeared; took his seat beside me, and, before I
could interpose, called out, "Drive on,--Lake End." And away we went,
leaving the mysterious strangers in the dusk behind us.

"Amory has not been seen there, nor beyond. There are two young sports
in there who came in from Lake End half an hour ago, but they are both
pretty full. The barkeeper said there were two more gentlemen who came
out from town with another buggy earlier, but they had gone outside."

"I saw them," answered I, "and they are bad characters of some kind.
They stole up on tiptoe and peered after you as you went in, then sprang
back out of sight as you came out. I wanted to tell you about them. They
seemed waiting or watching for somebody."

"Gamblers or 'cappers' probably. Fellows who lie in wait for drunken
men with money and steer them into their dens,--fleece them, you know.
The streets are full of them day and night."

"Yes; but these men wore slouch hats and overcoats that muffled their
faces, and they watched you so oddly. Why did they leap back as you came
out?"

"That was odd," said Mr. Parker, thoughtfully. "Could you see nothing of
their faces?"

"Nothing at all, except that the first man had a heavy dark moustache,
and was tall and stoutly built; the other seemed young and slight; his
face was hidden entirely."

The aide-de-camp leaned out and looked back along the dark road; then
drew in again.

"No use to look," he said. "Even if they were to follow I could not see;
their buggy has no lamps, our rig has to have them. Are you armed?"

"No; I never carry anything."

"Nor I, as a rule; yet had I thought we would come so far at this time
of night I would have brought my revolver. Not that any attack is to be
feared from those two unless there should be a crowd at their back;
otherwise we would be three to two."

"But they are armed, and we are not."

"They think we are, all the same. The average citizen hereabouts goes
prepared to shoot if he is on a night-prowl like this. I don't know why
I asked if you were armed."

Then for some distance we rattled along in silence. The clouds had grown
heavier; a few heavy rain-drops had pattered in on our faces, and the
night air was damp and raw. We passed one or two more dark houses, and
then came in view of the lights at Lake End. Here, despite the lateness
of the hour, one or two resorts seemed still to be open and patronized.
Directing the driver to turn towards the lights on the right, Mr. Parker
again sprang out, looked in the carriage-shed, then into the bar-room;
came out, crossed the way, and made a similar search in a neighboring
establishment. Then I saw him questioning a sleepy-looking stableman,
and then he came back to me. Perplexity and concern were mingled in his
face as he stood there looking up at me in the glare of our lamp.

"Nobody has been here on horseback since midnight. These are the only
places open since that hour, and now there are not more than half a
dozen people out here--roysterers after a late supper. Where could Amory
have gone? Do you suppose he knew his way back by Washington Avenue, and
had turned to the left instead of this way?"

"He is an entire stranger in New Orleans,--never was out here before in
his life,--and I don't know what to make of it."

He looked at his watch, retook his seat. "We must get back to the
bridge," said he. "Driver, stop at Gaston's,--where we were before,--and
go lively."

Now through the pattering rain we hurried on our return trip. We were
silent, plunged in thought and anxiety. In some way those two skulkers
at Gaston's had become connected in my mind with Amory's disappearance.
I could not shake off the impression, and, as though the same train of
thought were affecting my companion, he suddenly spoke,--

"You say that those men followed me as I went in, and sprang out into
the shrubbery as I came back?"

"Yes; as though to avoid being seen by you."

He took off his forage-cap and looked disgustedly at it a moment.

"Confound this thing! Why didn't I wear my hat?" he muttered; then
turned suddenly to me: "Mr. Brandon, when we get back to Gaston's let me
have your hat, will you? I would like to take another look in there, and
if you will stay in the cab, we will stop this side of the entrance, and
I'll go ahead on foot. Here, driver, hold up a moment."

Cabby reined in his horse and turned towards us in surprise. The
aide-de-camp sprang out in the rain and began working at the lamp.

"Don't put it out, sir; it's against orders," said the driver.

"Never you mind, driver; I'll be responsible for any row there may be
over it. There is reason for it, and a mighty good one. Douse that glim
on your side. That's right! Now go ahead, lively as you can, and stop
just this side of Gaston's."

Then for a while we pushed on in the darkness, and nobody spoke. Finally
the driver turned, saying that Gaston's lights were near at hand;
presently he reined up. Mr. Parker exchanged head-gear with me; pulled
the brim of my roomy black felt well down over his face; and, cautioning
us in a low tone to remain where we were, disappeared in the direction
of the lights.

It must have been long after three. I was tired and chilled. The driver
got out his gum coat and buttoned it around him. Five--ten minutes we
waited. No sound but the dismal patter of the rain. Full quarter of an
hour passed, it seemed to me, before I saw a lantern coming rapidly out
of the darkness in front, and presently Mr. Parker's voice was heard.

"Come on; drive slowly. Go right in to Gaston's," and, even as he spoke,
he swung in beside me. "Had Amory any money, do you know?" he asked,
before fairly taking his seat.

"No. Why?"

"There is something strange about this affair I cannot fathom. I've been
talking with Gaston and one of his men. They have been sitting up
waiting for us to get back. Those two footpads were up to some mischief,
and I'm afraid it was Amory they were after. You will hear in a moment.
Come into the bar," he said, as the cab stopped at the steps.

Another moment and Gaston himself had ushered us into a little room and
proceeded to tell his tale. We had no sooner left, he said, than those
gentlemen who came from town in the buggy after midnight re-entered the
bar, ordered drinks, and asked Gaston to join them. One was a big man,
with a heavy moustache, and deep-set eyes under very shaggy brows; he
was rather poorly dressed, and had no watch. The other was a young,
dark-eyed, handsome fellow, with dark moustache, stylish clothes, and a
fine gold watch, which he kept nervously looking at every moment or so.
The former did all the talking; the latter paid for everything they
ordered both before and after our visit. After a few ordinary remarks
the big man asked Gaston who the young officer was, and Gaston, knowing
him to be stationed in the city and having often seen him, gave his
name. Then they wanted to know who was with him in the cab, and "what
took him off so sudden." Gaston had seen nobody with him, but told them
unhesitatingly that Mr. Parker was in search of a friend,--an officer
who had ridden out on horseback. At this the men had looked suddenly at
one another, and very soon after had gone out, saying they believed they
would drive back, it looked like rain.

Five minutes afterwards, Louis, the hostler, came into the bar and asked
Gaston who those men were, and, on being told that they were strangers,
had replied, "Well, they're here for no good, and I'd like to follow
them up. They didn't see me out there in the dark, and were talking very
low and fast when they came for their buggy." We called Louis in and had
his story from his own lips. He had heard their talk, and it alarmed and
puzzled him. The big man was saying with an oath that some man they were
waiting for must be around there somewhere; he had come across the
bridge, for Gaston told them the officer said so. The little man was
excited, and had answered, "Well, we've got to tackle him; but don't you
drive into any light." With that and some more talk they had got into
the buggy and had driven rapidly off towards the Canal Street bridge.

"How long ago?" asked Mr. Parker.

"Full half an hour," was the answer.

"Then we had better start at once," said the aide to me. "What other
places are there near here that would be open now, Gaston?"

"None at all. I'd have been shut long ago but for this affair. There are
one or two saloons near the bridge and the Metairie track, but none
would be open this late."

Thanking them for their information, and promising to let them know if
anything resulted, we hurried out to the cab and told the driver to go
to the bridge. We were both more than anxious by this time, and were
unable to account for the strange proceedings in any satisfactory
manner.

The rain seemed to have held up for a few moments, and the veil of
clouds thrown over the face of the moon had perceptibly thinned, so that
a faint, wan light fell upon roadway, swamp, and canal. The lamps at the
crossing burned with a yellowish glare. No one was visible around the
bridge or the buildings at the city end,--no one from whom we could
obtain information as to the movements of Amory or of the two strangers.

"There are one or two places over here on the upper side I mean to have
a look at," said Mr. Parker, "and if no one is there, Amory must have
gone back to town."

We had turned to the right, towards Lake Pontchartrain, on coming out.
Now the driver was directed to go to the other side. Parker kept peering
out into the darkness, and presently the driver said,--

"I think there's a light in there at Gaffney's."

"Hold up, then," said the aide. "Now, Mr. Brandon, lend me your hat
again: I'm going to hunt through one or two sheds hereabouts for that
buggy. I may be gone ten or twelve minutes. You get the cab into this
little side alley here and wait. Those men will be on the watch for our
lamps if they are still here, but I can crawl up on them by keeping the
cab out of sight."

The side alley proved to be a lane leading through the tall hedge of
swampy vegetation. I could not see where it led to, but the driver said
it only ran out a few hundred feet to some barns that lay near the old
Metairie track. He drove in, however, and halted the cab close under the
hedge on one side. Too nervous to sit still, I got out and walked back
to the main road, where the buildings of Gaffney's place could be seen.
There was, as the driver had said, a dim light, but it seemed to be in
one of the rear rooms.

For five minutes all was silent. Then, far up the road, I thought I
heard the beat of horses' hoofs coming on at a jog-trot. Listening
intently, I soon was assured. Nothing could be seen along the dark
shadow of the hedgerow; the light was too feeble to point out objects in
the road; but every moment, more and more distinctly, I heard what I
felt certain to be a horse and buggy coming towards us. Then all of a
sudden the sound ceased.

The approach to Gaffney's was a semicircular sweep of shell road leading
from the main highway to the galleries of the saloon. There was
probably a distance of a hundred yards between the two entrances. I was
standing at the northern end. That buggy had evidently stopped at or
very near the other. I almost fancied I could see it. Now, had Parker
heard it coming? Waiting a moment more in breathless expectancy, I
suddenly heard, as though from the shrubbery in front of Gaffney's, low,
prolonged, and clear, a whistle. My nerves leaped with sudden start. The
same odd thrill of tremulous excitement seized me that had so mastered
me that strange night in the old plantation home at Sandbrook. It was
for all the world like the signal-whistle that had so roused me that
night, only very much softer. Could it have been from Mr. Parker?
Whether it was or no he would probably need me now. I crept into the
shadow of the hedgerow and, on tiptoe, hastened up the curve towards the
gallery. A dim figure was standing at the end of the house peering
towards the other entrance,--a figure that held out a warning hand, and
I stole noiselessly up beside it, my heart beating like a trip-hammer.
It was Parker.

"Quiet," he whispered; "I think we have treed our buggy friends."

"The buggy is out there on the road," I answered.

"It was, but that whistle will bring it in here. There stands the big
man just at the other end of the gallery. He cannot see us; he is
looking the other way. Follow me across into the shrubbery and we will
get up near him. I'm bound to hear what devilment they are up to."

With that he sprang lightly across. I followed; and, crouching
noiselessly along the soft grass, we stole through the low trees and
bushes until nearly opposite the southern end of the gallery. Almost at
the same instant the buggy came driving up the turn, and a voice uttered
an impatient "Whoa!"

"What have you seen?" queried the party in the buggy in a low, agitated
voice,--a voice I knew I had heard before, and instinctively reached
forth my hand and placed it on my companion's arm.

"Seen! Not a d--d thing. Your blue-bellied skunk has been too smart for
you, Cap. He not only hasn't come himself, but he's got his friends out
here on your track."

"He has come, I tell you," answered the first speaker. "You know
yourself they were asking for him at Gaston's, and that fellow at the
bridge told you he saw him ride across."

"Then where'd he go to?" said the other, sulkily and savagely. "No man
passed Gaston's on horseback, I can swear to that; and if he came at all
as far as the bridge, why didn't he come the rest of the way? Where did
he go? How did he get back? Are you sure you wrote plain directions?"

"Plain! Of course I did. I wrote turn towards the lake, to the south,
after crossing the bridge, and he'd find me; and so he would, d--n him!"
added the younger man between his teeth. His voice was growing more and
more familiar to me every moment in its sulky, peevish tones.

"But you said he was a stranger here. How was he to know where the lake
lay?"

"Suppose he didn't! I told him to turn south. Any man knows north from
south I reckon. Perhaps the white-livered sneak was a Yank at bottom,
and lost his nerve."

"Tain't likely. Not from what I seen of him. His kind don't scare so
d--d easy at yours, and he came out here to find you, you bet. Why
didn't you say turn to the right instead of south? Damfino which is
north or south here anyhow. How was he to know?"

"Don't be a fool!" said the other, impatiently, "everybody knows the
river runs north and south, and Canal Street runs out right angles to
the river, and you turn to the right to go to the lake. It must be
south."

Here I couldn't help nudging my neighbor, the aide, who was chuckling
with delight at this scientific statement.

"Well, by Gawd! you may know more 'bout it than I do; but when I got
off that boat yesterday morning up there by Julia Street, d--n me if the
sun wasn't rising in the west then,--over there across Algiers,--and if
the Yank is no better posted on the points of the compass than I am,
strikes me he's slipped out of your trap easy enough."

"You mean he's gone to the left--past here?" asked the other,
snarlingly.

"Just that. He's taken the turn to the left. None of these places this
side have been open since we came out; and seeing no one, he's kept on,
and probably got back to town some other way. Like enough he's in bed
and asleep by this time, and here we've been fooling away the whole
night."

Chilled as I was, trembling 'twixt cold and excitement, I was beginning
to enjoy this conversation hugely. More than that, both the aide and
myself were beginning to feel assured that Amory was safe.

"Then all we can do is go back," said the young man in the buggy, after
a moment of silence. "But I'll get that fellow yet," he added, with a
torrent of blasphemy. "Get in."

"Where's that flask of yours?" asked the man on the steps. "I want a
drink."

"Get in first and I'll give it to you."

Then we heard the creaking of the springs, and the dim, shadowy form of
the big man lumbered into the light vehicle. A gurgle and a long-drawn
"ah-h-h" followed, then,--

"Got a cigar?"

"Yes; but hadn't we better wait until we get back on Canal Street before
lighting them? We want to look out for those other fellows in that cab,
you know."

"Oh, d--n them! You can see their lamps half a mile off. Here, give us a
match."

Another minute and a feeble glare illuminated the dark interior. Pale
and blue at first, it speedily gained strength and lighting power.
Eagerly we scanned the two faces, now for one never-to-be-forgotten
instant revealed to our gaze. One lowering, heavy-browed, coarse, and
bearded; the other--ah, well I knew I had heard that voice, for there,
half muffled in the heavy coat, half shrouded by the slouching hat, were
the pale, clear-cut, dissipated features I had marked so keenly at
Sandbrook. It was the face of Ned Peyton.



CHAPTER XIV.


Another minute the match, spluttering in the damp night air, was
extinguished; but I had seen enough. To the amaze of my companion, to
the scandal of any legal or professional education I might have had,
indignation got the better of all discretion, and I burst through the
shrubbery and laid my hand on the rein.

"Mr. Peyton, I believe," said I, in a tone intended to be double-shotted
with sarcasm. "Think we had the pleasure of meeting at Judge----"

"Hell!" hissed a startled voice. "Quick,--drive on!" Crack! went the
whip; the horse plunged violently forward; the wheel struck me full on
the left leg and hurled me against the stout branches of some dripping
bush, and with a whirr of wheels and crushing of gravel the buggy
disappeared in the darkness. Mr. Parker ran to my assistance, and
together we rushed to our own cab.

"Follow that buggy! Be lively!" was all I could find breath to say to
our driver, and then we were off in pursuit. We heard their hoofs and
wheels thundering over the bayou bridge, and saw their light vehicle
flash under the lamps at the Canal Street end, and that was the last we
ever did see of them. Our old horse with his heavy load was no match for
theirs. Long before we reached the open road beyond the cemeteries, they
were spinning along hundreds of yards out of sight ahead, and gaining at
every stride. In hurried words I told the aide-de-camp who the youth was
and what I knew about him, and, like myself, he was eager to overhaul
him; but it was useless. Not a trace could we find of the precious pair
as we drove in town. Day was breaking, and all our thoughts now turned
to Amory. Where was he, and how had he escaped the trap?

In the cold, misty dawn we reined up at the Magazine Street warehouse.
The sentry, with his head wrapped in the cape of his overcoat, called
out the corporal of the guard, and of him we eagerly inquired. Yes. The
lieutenant had returned, about an hour ago, his horse covered with mud
and much "blown." The lieutenant seemed to have a chill, and had gone
right to his room. Thither we followed, and noiselessly ascending the
stairs, made our way out to the gallery. A dim light burned in the
window; the door was half open, and by the bedside sat a soldier, who at
sight of Mr. Parker rose and saluted respectfully.

"What has been the matter, orderly?" asked the aide-de-camp, in a
whisper.

"I don't quite know, sir. Lieutenant Amory came home with a bad chill
about an hour ago, and quick as he dismounted I came over with him, and
he took some quinine and got to bed. He's just gone to sleep. He hasn't
been to bed for forty-eight hours, sir, and must be used up."

We stepped forward and bent over him. He had removed his heavy
riding-boots and trousers; his cavalry jacket was thrown on the chair at
the foot of the bed; and, muffled up in blankets, he lay there, sleeping
heavily yet uneasily. He moaned in his slumber, and threw himself
restlessly on the other side as we raised the light to see his face.
Placing my hand lightly on his forehead, I found it burning; so were his
cheeks, his hands. Fever had certainly set in after his chill, but of
how severe a character we could not judge, and it would never do to
awaken him. We stepped out on the landing, and after a brief
consultation, decided that Parker should find the attending surgeon and
send him to us as soon as possible. Meantime, I would remain with Amory.

In less than an hour the doctor arrived. Very thoroughly, yet very
gently, he examined his patient as to pulse and temperature; closely
scrutinized his face, and then replaced the bed-clothing that in his
fevered tossing Amory had thrown off. Seeing the anxiety in my eyes, he
spoke,--

"Very feverish, and probably quite ill. You did right not to wake him.
He will not sleep long, and every little helps. I will stay for the
present, and be with him when he does wake, for until then I cannot
really judge of his condition. What a night you have had of it, Mr.
Brandon! Parker has been telling me something of it."

I glanced half reproachfully at Parker. We had agreed to keep the thing
to ourselves until I could see Harrod and consult with him. But the aide
promptly relieved me of any misapprehension. He had "named no names,"
nor had he spoken of the part played by Peyton. Then, at the doctor's
suggestion, we withdrew, to seek such rest as we could find after our
night in the rain. Leaving Parker at headquarters, with the promise to
meet him late in the afternoon, I went to my own rooms, gave my
suspicious-looking landlady directions that I was not to be disturbed
until noon, and, tired out, slept until after two o'clock.

When I opened my eyes, Harrod Summers rose from an easy-chair in the
sitting-room, and came forward to greet me with outstretched hand. One
glance at his face showed that he had something of lively interest to
tell me, and as I sat up half sleepily in bed and answered his query as
to whether I felt rested or any the worse for the night's adventures, I
could see plainly that there was some matter that worried him, and
divined quite readily that he wanted to speak with me. It all came out
while I was shaving and dressing, and, dovetailed with what was already
known to Mr. Parker and myself, "a very pretty quarrel" as it stood was
unfolded to my ears.

It seems that on leaving the theatre the night previous, Colonel Summers
had stepped ahead of Kitty and her friend, Lieutenant Turpin, and was
searching for me. Seeing nothing of me in the crowd around the entrance,
he looked in at one or two resorts along Canal Street, thinking it
possible that he might meet some officers who could tell him of Amory's
movements, and so enable him to judge of mine. Meantime, Turpin and
Kitty strolled homeward, arm in arm. On reaching the Clay statue, Harrod
decided to search no farther, but to go home, feeling sure that if
anything were wrong I would follow him thither. At the house Pauline met
him with anxious inquiry. Had he seen or heard anything of Mr. Amory?
Kitty had returned ten or fifteen minutes before; had bidden Mr. Turpin
a very abrupt good-night, and excused herself on the plea of fatigue and
headache; and Pauline, following her to her room, found her very pale
and nervous, and learned from her that Amory had been at the theatre,
looking "so strangely" she thought he was ill; and, as they came down
the street, two men in a buggy drove up close beside them, and leaned
out and stared at them. She was utterly upset by Amory's appearance,
perhaps, and thinking of him, did not notice this performance until Mr.
Turpin suddenly dropped her arm and strode fiercely towards the buggy,
as though to demand the meaning of the conduct of its occupants;
whereupon they had whipped up and dashed off around the first corner;
and one of them--though his hat and coat-collar concealed his face--one
of them looked, she said, strangely like Ned Peyton. Pauline, seeing her
nervousness and fright, had soothed her with arguments as to the
impossibility of Peyton's being there; but she very anxiously spoke of
the matter to Harrod. Then, after we had made our midnight visit, Kitty,
in her loose wrapper, white as a sheet and trembling with dread and
excitement, had stolen to Pauline's room. Her own window overlooked the
balcony and the street, and unable to sleep, as she told Pauline, she
was lying wide awake, when she heard rapid hoof-beats on the pavement
coming from Canal Street,--a horse at rapid trot, but with no sound of
wheels in company, and the horse halted before their door. Unable to
restrain her curiosity or anxiety, she had risen, stolen to the window,
and peered out through the slats of the blind. A gas-lamp threw its
light upon the street in front, and there, plainly illumined by its
glare, sat Frank Amory in the saddle, gazing up at her window. She
turned instantly, she knew not why, and stepped back. He could not have
seen her, yet, in another moment, rapidly as he came, he rode away,
turned to the left at the corner, and she heard his hoof-beats dying
away in the direction of Dauphin Street. That was all, until we came,
and not until I had gone had she courage to creep over to Pauline and
tell her what she had seen.

Early in the morning Harrod had gone to headquarters; found Amory's
address, and on going thither was told by a soldier that the lieutenant
was too ill to see anybody. But, on sending up his name, the doctor and
Mr. Parker came down, and from them he learned that Amory had a sharp
attack of fever; nothing like as serious as Vinton's, and one that would
soon yield to treatment, provided nothing else went wrong. "There has
been some sore trouble or anxiety which has been telling upon Amory,"
said the doctor, "and that complicates matters somewhat. He _may_ have
had some delirium last night, but not enough to cause such a freak as an
all-night gallop. In fact, Parker has confided to me that Mr. Brandon
and himself know something of the matter, and that they mean to have a
talk with you."

"And that," said Harrod, "is what brought me here four hours ago,
though I had the grace not to disturb you. Now, what is it? What do you
know? Has that young cub Peyton been at the bottom of this?"

And then I told Harrod the story of our night's adventures. He listened
at first with composure; but when it came to the description of the two
skulkers at Gaston's and the conversation I had overheard, he rose
excitedly and began pacing rapidly up and down the room, tugging
fiercely at his moustache. Every now and then some muttered anathema
fell from his lips. He was evidently powerfully and unpleasantly moved,
and when at last my prolix recital was brought to an end with the
discovery of Peyton, and our fruitless chase, Harrod burst out into
genuine imprecation,--

"The doubly damned young scoundrel!" he groaned. "Why, Brandon, I
believe there is no cowardly villainy of which that fellow is not
capable. I ought to have gone with you. I _knew_ I ought to have gone."

"Why so?"

"Then we could have secured him by this time. It is too late now, I
fear. He is off for Havana or Mexico."

"But what good would that have done? What could we prove? What would you
want him secured for now that we have Amory safe and warned against him
in the future? You would not care to have the thing made public, would
you?"

"Not if _that_ were all! By heaven! the easiest solution of the whole
thing would be to let him try to trap Amory once more, and let Amory
know all that--that we both know."

"Do you mean that he has been at other mischief than this mysterious
attempt at Amory?"

"Yes. We thought him safely out of the way,--in Cuba. He was there, but
must have come directly to this point when he heard of the verdict in
those Ku-Klux cases. You know they acquitted Smith. No jury could be
found that dared do otherwise, I suppose," he added gloomily.

"I knew that, of course; but why should that bring Peyton here?"

"He _had_ to leave Havana, Brandon. Don't you remember father's anxiety
at Sandbrook before we came away? and what he said about its perhaps
being too late for any effort on his part? I was to have told you, but I
couldn't bear to just yet. Why, that damned scoundrel forged father's
signature to a large draft, and got the money there where the bankers
knew them both. It was only discovered here in New Orleans when the
draft came to the Hibernia, and as the loss comes on these old
correspondents of father's in Havana, he feels bound to see them
reimbursed, for he cannot bear the thought of disgrace to his name or
that of a kinsman. By Peyton's arrest we might secure part of the money.
That is all, for he has taken every cent father had in the world."

"Then the sooner we get to the chief of police and acquaint him with
Peyton's movements and description the better it will be," said I, who
felt no scruples whatever against bringing master Ned to the bar of
justice.

"It's too late, Brandon, I'm afraid. He saw Amory yesterday and Kitty
last night; he knows by this time we are here, and he is miles away.
Father had telegraphed at once that he would refund the amount of
Peyton's forged raise, and so suspended pursuit or arrest. Peyton of
course has heard of this or he would not have ventured hither in the
first place; but he well knows that with me here it is no place for him.
We will go, of course, and start the detectives, but I fear we have lost
him. Do you think Amory can see us this evening and tell us what he
knows of this affair?"

"We must see him, unless the doctor prohibits it; but come first to the
City Hall," said I. And as we rode thither in a street-car, both deeply
engrossed in thought, Harrod turned suddenly towards me,--

"Brandon, this is the most extraordinary piece of cross-purposes to me.
For three weeks--for a month past, Frank Amory has been a mystery. We
all thought him growing very fond of Kitty, and after the affair on the
Tennessee, where he was hurt, she seemed very much interested in him.
Now for nearly a month he has avoided her, and she thinks that--well,
she gave me a message for him the night we started, which virtually
begged his forgiveness for something she had said or done to wound him.
She would never have sent it if she did not believe he cared for her. Of
course I have never delivered it, because she was here to speak for
herself, and told me not to; but he has treated her with something like
aversion, and she resents it, and now she's flirting with young Turpin,
and then there will be more trouble. Great heavens! what a world of
misunderstandings it is!" And Harrod laughed despite his anxiety.

Having some inkling by this time as to the secret of Amory's hesitancy
and strange conduct towards Kitty, I told Harrod that a solution of the
matter had occurred to me. There was an explanation, I believed, and a
satisfactory one, and it would appear very shortly I thought. This, in
profound wisdom and some mystery of manner, I imparted to the perplexed
colonel. He gazed at me in bewilderment, but was polite enough to press
the matter no further.

"A few days will straighten that matter," said I. "We will see when he
is well enough to be about again." And in my purblind idiocy I really
fancied that letter of mine to Bella Grayson was going to settle
everything.

Our visit at police headquarters was brief and not particularly
satisfactory. It was already past steamer time for both Havana and Vera
Cruz. If Peyton were "wanted," a telegram to the quarantine station,
with his full description, might establish whether or no he was on
board; but there were no officers there to make the arrest, and an
arrest was not wanted in any event,--it was the recovery of the money.
If he had not left town it was just barely possible they might nab him;
but dozens of river boats left New Orleans for a dozen different points
every evening, and there were hundreds of hiding-places in the city
itself. He would try, said the chief, and one or two solemn-looking men
in civilian's dress came in at his call and listened attentively to our
description of Peyton and his companion; but, one and all, they said
they would like to hear Lieutenant Amory's account of what he had had to
do with the pair. So, taking one of the detectives, we drove up to
Amory's lodging.

The doctor was there and came down to meet us. I told him our dilemma,
and asked if it were possible to hear Amory's story. He looked grave for
a moment, and considered well before answering.

"You might see him, Mr. Brandon, if that will do. I would much rather he
did not talk until to-morrow, but if there be an emergency, why, he can
stand it. He is doing well, has slept well since his medicine began to
take hold this morning, and now he's awake and inclined to be fretful.
Something worries him, and perhaps it may be a benefit to see you."

So Harrod and the detective waited, while I went up to interview Mars.

Bless the boy's face! It brightened so at sight of me that I felt like
an uncle towards him. He was very pale, rather feeble, but eagerly
grasped my hand and welcomed me.

"Mr. Brandon has come to see you on business of some importance, Mr.
Amory," said the doctor, "and you can talk with him, but talk as little
as possible. We want to get you up and ready to travel, if you are bound
to go North, so quiet will be necessary for a day or two."

With that he vanished, taking the nurse with him. Then I told Amory that
Parker and I had been in search of him late at night, and fearing he was
taken ill, as Vinton had been, we trailed him out to the shell road, and
there came upon Peyton and a burly stranger, from whose conversation we
found they were lying in wait for him. The moment they were discovered
they drove off in a hurry. Could he give any clue by which we could find
them? Peyton was "wanted" for a grave crime.

"What?" asked Amory, flushing, and excited.

"Forgery," I answered. "Now let me be brief as possible, Amory. I hate
to excite you at such a time. Have you any idea where he is to-day, or
who the other man is?"

"None whatever."

"Tell me, quietly as you can, how you came to go out there alone on
horseback last night. Were you ill then?"

"Not so ill but that I knew what I was about. I had had some fever all
day, probably, and--and was worried about something,--a letter from
mother. She wants me to come North at once, and I would have gone but
for this. Perhaps it worked on me a good deal. It was late when we got
back from Jeffersonville. I wrote a note to Parker, and left it at
headquarters, and went on down-town, hoping to see Vinton, and intending
to dine with you at Moreau's. I did not feel well, but I wanted to see
you. Right there by the City Hotel a passing cab splashed me with mud,
and I turned into the barber-shop to have it rubbed off. Quite a number
of men were in there, talking a good deal, and seemed to have been
drinking, but I paid no particular attention to them, until just as I
was leaving one of them said, 'There's the ---- ----d Yank now, Peyton.
What better chance do you want?' Of course I turned quickly and went
right up to the fellow. One or two others sprang forward. Some one said,
'Shut up, you fool!' but it was too late. The man was drunk, probably,
and having put his foot in it, had bravado enough not to back out
entirely. He was in one of the chairs, his face covered with lather, and
as I inquired if he referred to me, he replied, with drunken gravity,
that his friend, Mr. Peyton, had expressed a desire to meet me, and
'there he was.' Sure enough there was young Peyton, stepping out from
between the chairs to his right, his face black as thunder. I was mad as
a hornet, of course, and never stopped to think. 'Are you responsible
for this gentleman's language?' said I. 'Just as you please,' said he;
and with that I struck him full under the jaw, and knocked him back
among the shaving-cups and bottles. Of course there was a terrible row.
He drew his pistol, but it was yanked out of his hand by some stranger.
A dozen men jumped in and separated us. I didn't know one of them, but
they seemed bent on having fair play. He raved about satisfaction, and I
said any time and any place. Then a gentlemanly-speaking fellow
suggested that the friends or seconds meet at the Cosmopolitan, at ten
o'clock; that would give plenty of time, and obviate any trouble there.
And before I fully realized the situation it was agreed that we were to
settle the thing according to the code, and our friends were to meet at
ten o'clock. With that he was led off, and I went out to think the
matter over. Of course there was nothing to do but fight. I had knocked
him down and was bound to give him satisfaction. But this was no cadet
fisticuff; it was a serious matter, and I needed a friend. Of course it
ought to be an officer, and now that Vinton was ill, I had no one with
whom to advise. I went down to the depot to find Turpin. He was a
classmate, and the very fellow to back me; but Turpin wasn't there. I
went to Moreau's in search of him, and--well, he was busy, and I
couldn't ask him. Then I went up to headquarters for Parker. He was
years ahead of me at the Point, but I knew he would see me through; but
Parker was out. He lived way up-town, and when I got there they told me
he had gone to the theatre. That is what brought me to the Varieties. It
was getting late, and I had nobody to act for me. All those infantry
fellows were strangers, and at ten o'clock I had to go to the
Cosmopolitan myself. Not a soul was there whom I knew, though one or two
men dropped in who looked curiously at me, and whom I thought I had seen
during the row.

"It was nearly eleven o'clock, and I was wellnigh crazy with excitement
and nervousness, fearing that I had made some mistake, and they could
say I shirked the meeting. But just about eleven a man came in, who
looked closely at me, said 'Captain Amory?' and handed me a note.
There's the note, Mr. Brandon; read it."

Read it I did. It was as follows:

     "LIEUTENANT F. AMORY, U.S.A.:

     "SIR,--In some way for which _we_ find it impossible to account,
     the authorities have got wind of our affair, and threatened me with
     arrest; but I learn from a friend that you are at the Cosmopolitan
     unattended. The gentlemen who were present at the time of your
     outrageous affront this afternoon were total strangers to me, with
     one exception, but I cannot believe that they have betrayed me to
     the police.

     "As an officer you must be aware that there can be only one
     reparation for a blow, and, if a gentleman, you cannot refuse it.
     You said you would meet me any time and any place, and I hold you
     to your word. I demand instant satisfaction, before the police can
     interfere, and there is one place where, if alone, we can be sure
     of quiet. That is a shooting- and fencing-gallery on the shell
     road, where there is a room where gentlemen can settle such affairs
     with swords, and where every attention is paid and inviolable
     secrecy observed.

     "Leaving my friend here with the policeman who is watching our
     rooms, I shall slip out by the back way and go out on horseback. If
     you are a man of honor you will follow. Keep on out Canal Street to
     the end, cross the canal on the bridge, and then turn to the south.
     I will watch for your horse and conduct you to the spot. The bearer
     of this will bring a verbal answer, all that is necessary.
     Reminding you once more of the outrage you have committed upon a
     gentleman, and of your promise to render full satisfaction at such
     time and place as I should demand, I am, with due respect,

     "Yours, etc.,

     "EDWARD HARROD PEYTON."

I read it through twice before speaking, Amory narrowly watching my
face.

"And do you mean to tell me, Frank Amory, that you could be led into a
snare by such a transparent piece of rascality as that?" I asked at
last.

"How should I know?" said Amory, flushing. "The letter _reads_ straight
enough. The barbers or somebody might have told the police, and I knew
only that Mr. Peyton was a relative of gentlemen and supposed him to be
a gentleman. Of course I went."

"All the young scoundrel wanted was to get you there alone and unarmed,
and then turn you over to that great bully he had for a terrible
beating. _He_ would never dare fight you fairly. This thing is a fraud
on its face; no Southern gentleman would ask such a thing of a stranger
as a midnight meeting without seconds in an unknown spot. Why, Amory, it
is absurd, and as I tell you, and as their talk proved, he only wanted
to lure you there and see you brutally pounded and mutilated. The
scoundrel knew he must leave town at once, and, hating you, he wanted
this low revenge first."

"Why should he hate me?" asked Amory.

"Because of your fight with those villains of Hank Smith's last
December, for one thing. He was hand in glove with them all. Because
of--well, another reason occurs to me that need not be spoken of just
now. I ought not to let you talk so much as it is. Tell me one thing,
however. You are anxious to go North, the doctor says. Can I serve you
in any way?"

Amory hesitated. "Mother is very anxious that I should come, if
possible," he faltered; "and she is right. There--there are reasons why
I ought to go and settle a matter that has given me much distress. I
told her of it, and she writes that only one course is open to me." And
the deep dejection and trouble in his face upset me completely.

"Youngster," said I, impulsively. "Forgive me if I appear to intrude in
your affairs, but you have become very near to me, if you know what I
mean, in the last few months. We have learned to regard you as something
more than a friend, the Summers' and I, and lately it seems to me that
an inkling of your trouble has been made known to me (who _would_ have
said, 'I have been prying into your affairs?')--and--Frank, don't worry
if it is about Bella Grayson. She is my own niece,--you may not
know,--and I had a letter from her the other day."

Amory almost started up in bed (capital nurse Mr. G. S. Brandon would
make for a fever patient ordinarily, you are probably thinking), but
though his eyes were full of eager inquiry and astonishment, he choked
back the question that seemed to rise to his lips and simply stared at
me, then with flushing cheeks turned quickly away.

"I cannot explain just now; try and be content with what I tell you for
a day or two," I went on. "You can hear more when you are better. One
thing I want to ask you for the benefit of the detectives who are
looking for Peyton. How do you suppose you were so fortunate as to
escape missing him and the other blackguard? We found them just below
the bridge to the right."

"I don't know," was the weary reply. "Things were all in a whirl after I
got that note. I remember telling that fellow to say that I would be
there without fail. Then it took some time to hurry up here and get my
horse, and to write a line to mother; then I did not go straight out
Canal Street. There were one or two things that had to be done; but I
rode like the devil to get there, and there wasn't a soul that I could
see anywhere around the far end of the bridge."

"But didn't you go down towards the lake,--to the right hand, I mean?"

"To the right? No, of course not," said Amory. "He said to the south;
look at the note again and you'll find it; and I had that little compass
there on my watch-chain. South was to the left, man, and,--why, it seems
to me I rode all night; found myself in town and rode back to the
swamps; then gave it up and came home somehow; I don't know. It was all
a blur."

Then, fortunately, the doctor came back, and, with one glance at Amory's
face, motioned to me that enough or more than enough had been said. I
bent over Amory and said, with the best intentions in the world of being
reassuring, "Remember, do not fret about going North or about anything
else of that kind; _that_ is coming out all right." And with the
profound conviction that it _was_ coming out all right through his
ministration, the recorder of this curious tangle took his leave.



CHAPTER XV.


Two days elapsed and Frank Amory failed to get better with the rapidity
so slight an attack of fever should have permitted; and when it is
considered that my language had been, or ought to have been, very
reassuring as regarded his other troubles, there seemed to me small
warrant for the doctor's ascribing his slow rally to mental
perturbations. It was beginning to dawn upon me that the doctor looked
upon me as something of a sick-room nuisance ever since my interview
with his patient about Peyton, and that only his politeness prevented
his saying that that interview had been a decided set-back. At all
events, two days passed without my again seeing Mars. He was sleeping
when I called, or had had a restless night, and was not to be disturbed.
Yet Parker saw him twice, and brought favorable accounts; he seemed to
have the luck of getting around at times when Amory was awake, and,
being a cavalryman himself, the aide-de-camp had taken charge of the
troop and was able to bear Amory daily bulletins of its well-doing.
Vinton was rapidly improving and able to sit up a few moments each day.
Pauline was radiant with hope and love; and Kitty--whom I had not seen
for nearly two days, when we met again at Moreau's--Kitty once more
looked pale, anxious, and wistful; I saw it the instant her eyes met
mine.

Harrod told me that he had seen fit to say nothing to her of Peyton's
latest escapade. It would not help matters at all and could only cause
her distress. Pauline had been told in confidence, and he himself had
written full particulars to the judge. The police had made no arrests or
discoveries; but twice I had received visits from members of the
detective force asking for further description of the burly man who was
with Peyton the night of the chase. The younger man, they seemed to
think, had got away to Texas, but for some reason they seemed hopeful of
catching the other party, who was apparently "wanted" for something for
which he could properly be held.

It was two nights after the theatre party, and once again we were dining
at Moreau's; this time reinforced by Pauline and by Major Williams. It
was a lovely evening in the early spring. Already the breezes from the
South were freighted with the faint, sweet fragrance of the
orange-blossoms; windows were thrown open, and four of us at least were
placidly enjoying the spirited scene on the street below. Pauline and
the major were in the midst of a pleasant chat; Harrod and I dreamily
puffing at our cigars; and over on the sofa Kitty and her now absolutely
enslaved Turpin were oblivious to all other objects. He, poor fellow,
was bending towards her, his whole soul in his eyes, his whole heart on
his lips; speaking in low tones, eagerly, impetuously. She, with
feverish flush on her soft cheeks, her eyes veiled by their white lids
and fringed with their sweeping lashes, was nervously toying with her
gloves, yet listening, painfully listening. Harrod studied them an
instant, then looked significantly at me.

"It is too bad," he said, with a shrug of his shoulders. "I suppose you
see poor Turpin's woe?"

I nodded. It was hard for the boy, and Kitty was by no means blameless,
but just now her conduct was the source of absolute comfort to me. In my
fondness for Amory I was glad to see that now that it came to actual
love-making,--now that Turpin was undoubtedly enmeshed and fluttering in
her toils, the little coquette was distressed by his vehemence. She was
thinking of another, and my hopes for my own young knight were high.
There could be no doubt of the situation, for had we not gathered in
honor of the major and his gallant young adjutant? Were we not there to
break bread once more before parting,--to wish them _bon voyage_ with
our stirrup-cups? Their orders had come. Quiet restored to the Crescent
City, Major Williams's little battalion was to return forthwith to their
station in Kentucky. They were to start that night, and Turpin was
facing his fate.

It was soon time to walk down "homeward," as we had learned to think of
Newhall's rooms on Royal Street. Harrod and I led the way. Major
Williams followed, escorting Pauline. Kitty and Turpin silently took
their places in the rear, and before we had gone three squares they were
out of sight behind. At the steps the major said his farewells, with
many a hope that we might all meet again in our wanderings. "Say good-by
to Miss Carrington for me," he added, with a smile half sad, half
mischievous. "I fear poor Turpin leaves his heart here. Tell him for me
to take his time; he won't be needed for an hour yet." And with a wave
of his hand the soldierly fellow strode down the street.

Then, even as we stood there, Turpin and Kitty arrived. With her first
glance at them Pauline's sympathetic heart seemed to realize the
situation. She signalled to us to follow her, and entered at once.
Unaccustomed as ever to the interpretation of feminine signals, I
blunderingly stayed where I was, and Harrod hovered irresolutely in the
doorway.

"Won't you come in?" we heard her say timidly, almost pleadingly, as she
held out her little hand.

"No, thank you, not this time; I must catch Williams. Say good-by for
me, please." He grasped her hand, and seemed to wring it hard an
instant, then, pulling his cap down over his eyes, dashed away.

Kitty stood one moment looking sorrowfully after him, then slowly passed
us, and went in without a word. She did not appear again that evening so
long as I was there.

Early next morning a note reached me from Harrod. A telegram had just
reached him from Sandbrook. "Father says he will be here to-morrow. Mrs.
Amory--Frank's mother--coming on same train." And, leaving everything
undone that I ought to have done at the office, I hastened up to Amory's
lodgings to see what that might mean. He was sitting up, partially
dressed, and would be glad to see me, said the orderly; and, stumbling
up the stairs, I was shown to his room.

Very pale and rather thin looked our Mars, but his face was brighter and
his eyes far clearer. He was far from strong, however, and apologized
for not rising, as he held out his hand.

"Mother is coming," were almost his first words.

"So I heard. Judge Summers telegraphed Colonel Harrod that he would be
here to-morrow,--at noon, I suppose,--and that Mrs. Amory was on the
train. What a very pleasant surprise for all!"

"Yes. When she heard from me how ill Vinton was, and that I could not
get away, the little mother must have made up her mind to come to me. It
is a surprise, yet a very glad one. Where can we put her? This house is
no place, and yet, it may be two or three days before I can get out, and
I hate to have her alone at the St. Charles."

"Why not with the Summers' at Colonel Newhall's place? There are one or
two rooms vacant, and the landlady seems very pleasant."

Mars flushed to the temples.

"I think not," he said, hesitatingly. "It--it's too far away. She would
rather be up here with me, or near me. She wants so much to know Vinton,
too,--has such an admiration for him; but she could not see him just
now, I suppose. How is he to-day?"

"Very much better last night. So much so that Miss Summers went over and
dined with us at Moreau's,--a little dinner to Major Williams and
Turpin, you know," said I, soothingly, and with calm note of the twinge
which seemed to shoot over Amory's features at the mention of the party.
"They went back to Kentucky last night, I suppose you know," I added.

"They? No, I didn't!" said Mars, with sudden animation. "I wanted to see
Turpin, too. He was here twice, but they said I wasn't well enough, or
something, and he went away. Did he go back with the battalion?" he
inquired, eagerly.

"Certainly. He came around to say good-by last evening."

Mars settled back in his chair with an expression of absolute relief.

Now, thought I, is the time to have a few words about Bella Grayson. It
was just about time to look for the coming of her reply to my diplomatic
letter, and very positively did I want to know just how matters stood
between her and my cavalryman. Meddling old Polonius that I was, it
seemed to me perfectly right and natural that Mars should reciprocate my
warm interest in him, that he should want to tell me about Bella, and
that the fact of my relationship to her should give me an added lustre
in his eyes. This last, perhaps, was realized. He was more inclined to
be very courteous and semi-confidential in his tone, yet he was not at
ease.

It was at the tip of my tongue to make some genial, off-hand,
matter-of-fact inquiry, such as "Heard from Bella, lately?" by way of
putting him entirely out of all embarrassment, when, fortunately, the
orderly entered, saying a gentleman asked to speak a moment with Mr.
Brandon. Going out in some surprise to the landing, Mr. Brandon there
encountered one of the detectives whom he had recently learned to know.

"Can you come down to the office, sir? We have one of your birds, if not
both," was the extent of his communication. And dropping Amory;
forgetting Bella; I went.



CHAPTER XVI.


An hour later, both Harrod Summers and myself were curiously inspecting
a pair of inebriated bipeds at the police station. Both were stolidly
drunk, and were plunged in the heavy sleep that resulted from their
excessive potations. One, the younger, was a tolerably well-dressed
youth not absolutely unlike Peyton; but all the same a total stranger.
Neither of us had ever seen him before. But his companion--was Hank
Smith.

The two had been guilty of some drunken turbulence in a down-town
saloon, said one of the police-officers, and had attracted the attention
of the "force." In the course of a wordy altercation between them a
detective had dropped in, and, after a few moments' apparently
indifferent lounging and listening, had suddenly gone in search of a
comrade, meantime bidding the officer keep his eye on them. They were
still drinking and squabbling when the detective returned. Smith was
demanding payment of money which the other protested he had never
received, and it was not long before the lie was given and a scuffle
ensued. This was sufficient to enable the officers to arrest them as
drunk and disorderly, and then to notify us. That Peyton was in some way
connected with the sudden appearance of Hank Smith in the Crescent City
neither of us could doubt for a minute, as Peyton's name, with many
blasphemous qualifications, had been frequently mentioned in their
altercation. It would be some hours before they could be in condition to
account for themselves and their motives; meantime the colonel and I
were devoured with impatience and curiosity. The police supposed that
they had the big ruffian of our night adventure in the person of Smith,
but he was not the man. His presence only added to the mystery. For
several weeks after his trial at Jackson he had disappeared from our
view and we had heard nothing of his movements. Now, what could have
brought him here, and what connection had his wanderings with Peyton's?
I vainly puzzled over this problem while studying the flushed and sodden
features of this arch-reprobate. Harrod went down home again to tell
Vinton of the important capture. I had to go to the office at noon, but
late in the day we were again at the station, and now, still bewildered
and surly, but somewhat freshened by liberal applications of cold water
from the pump, the ex-leader of the Tishomingo Ku-Klux was sitting up
and chewing the cud of melancholy retrospect in place of the accustomed
solace of "navy plug." Very ugly and ill at ease looked Hank as the
colonel quietly accosted him. He knew us both at once and seemed not at
all surprised at our presence.

Our only object in intruding upon his valuable time and his placid
meditations being to find out what had become of Peyton, the question
arose beforehand, who should question him? Supposing that he would be
disposed to conceal everything he might know, we had been planning what
course to pursue; but his first remark put an end to our uncertainty.

"I'm as well as a man can be who's just over a drunk and can't get a
cocktail," he growled. "Have you come to pay me that money for Cap.
Peyton?" And his bloodshot eyes gleamed fiercely up at Harrod's calm
features.

"How much do you claim, Smith?" was the evasive query.

"He knows d--d well. It's a round five hundred dollars, and I'll foller
him to Mexico but that I'll get it out of him, if you don't pay it."

"Why did you not make him pay you yesterday?"

"Yesterday?" said Hank, starting to his feet. "He ain't got back, has
he? If he's lied to me again, I'll----Say, _is_ he back?" he asked,
eagerly.

"I have not seen him yet," answered Harrod, "and I do not wish to see
him. I want you to warn him never to show his face among us again. Now,
supposing you are released to-night, how soon can you find him?"

"_Find_ him? The young whelp! He's tricked me. He's gone to Mexico, d--n
him! I came here two days ago to meet him as agreed. He was to pay me
the money then, and said you was here to get it for him; and then, when
I got here, he left word that he was in a scrape, and had to light out
for Texas right away, and never said another word about the money,
except that I might apply to him there for it ('him there' being the
bedraggled-looking youth sitting up now on his wooden bench and staring
stupidly about him), and--and this is what came of it, by God! The
money's mine, colonel, and I earned it fairly that last scrape he was
in. He swore he'd pay me if we'd help him out. They'd have jailed him
sure at Holly Springs if we hadn't stood by him. It took some of the
hardest swearing you ever listened to to turn that marshal off his
track." And Hank's face was woe-begone as this touching reminiscence
occurred to him.

"And that was the service your people rendered him, was it? You could
have rendered his people a much better one by telling the truth and
'jailing him,' as you say. What had he been doing to set the marshal on
his track?"

Hank looked suspiciously at me a moment. He was apparently ready to
make a clean breast of matters to Harrod, but I was one of a class he
regarded with distrust. Seeing this, Harrod glanced significantly at me,
and I withdrew, leaving them to work out their own conclusions.

Strolling up to headquarters and thence over to Amory's, I found him
sleeping quietly and Parker reading the newspapers at his bedside. An
enlivening conversation was not to be looked for in that quarter
therefore, and on my speaking to Parker about a room for Mrs. Amory, who
was to arrive on the following day, he replied that he had already
secured one close at hand. This again left me with nothing especial to
do, and in my loneliness and lack of occupation I went down to Royal
Street, and came luckily upon a cheerful gathering at Newhall's, as we
had learned to speak of the house wherein our Sandbrook party were
quartered.

It was a still, balmy evening, and Vinton's sofa had been trundled into
the sitting-room. He lay there looking rather gaunt and white, but
unutterably happy, for in a low chair by his side Miss Summers was
seated, and she had evidently been reading aloud before my entrance, for
a little blue-and-gold volume of Tennyson lay in her lap. Harrod and
Kitty were seated at the centre-table near them, and rose to greet me as
I entered, but the moment she had given me her little hand, with a
rather embarrassed greeting, and I went forward to Vinton's sofa, Miss
Kitty dropped back to the dim light of a distant corner. I had barely
time to congratulate the major on his convalescence when he inquired
eagerly for Amory.

"I have just come from him," I answered. "He was sleeping quietly, and
Mr. Parker was there with him. He will be all right now in a day or two.
Mrs. Amory will be here to-morrow, as you doubtless know, and Parker has
taken a room for her at Madame R----'s, close to headquarters."

For some moments we four sat there talking quietly about her coming and
its probable benefit to Amory's health, which certainly had been
suffering of late. Kitty still sat in her corner, apparently occupied
with a magazine, though it was too dark to read at that distance from
the lamp. Vinton, of course, was eager to hear all the particulars of
the recent excitements, however, and after a few moments he asked to be
fully informed.

"Yes, Brandon, tell him the whole thing. Do not spare Peyton. Do not
imagine that it will shock Pauline, for I have told her all about it.
Indeed, I may as well take the lead," said Harrod, "and give you briefly
what Smith confessed to me to-day. It was Peyton who planned and led
that ambuscade on Amory's command. He ordered his party to try and pick
off Amory himself, and but for the darkness they probably would have
killed him. The fellow is a scoundrel throughout, and I'm almost sorry
he has escaped now. Smith says he has undoubtedly gone to Mexico, and
most of the money with him. Now, Brandon, tell us your story."

There was a rustle of skirts at the other end of the room. Pauline
glanced wistfully over to Kitty's corner, and I could not help looking
thither myself. Without a word the little lady had risen and left the
room.

Pauline rose hurriedly. "I must go to Kitty," she said. "She has been
very much distressed about all this trouble of late, and she will worry
herself to death." With that she, too, was gone; and Mr. Brandon, bereft
of his feminine audience, told his story with far less interest and
enjoyment than he would otherwise have felt. Vinton was deeply
interested, however, and greatly concerned over Amory's adventure. It
was some time before Miss Summers' return, and then she brought Kitty's
excuses. The latter had been persuaded finally to go to bed, for she was
shocked inexpressibly at hearing that Peyton had really had the
hardihood to carry out the threat of that memorable day at Sandbrook.
"And more than that, she is convinced that Peyton has been striving to
harm Mr. Amory here in New Orleans, and I _had_ to promise that she
should know the whole truth. Is it so, Mr. Brandon?"

And once more Mr. Brandon had the gratification of relating that
episode, and before another day poor Kitty was in possession of all the
facts.

And yet when I met her the following afternoon her eyes were bright; her
color heightened; her manner animated and almost gay. "So glad uncle was
coming," was her explanation, and yet--she did not care to go to the
station with Harrod, Pauline, and myself to meet uncle. This struck me
as strange, and I ventured to urge her to accompany us.

"Oh, no! the carriage only holds four," was her reply.

"But you will make the fourth, and you know I'm not coming back. I'm
going to drive Mrs. Amory up to see her boy at once. He's sitting up in
state ready to welcome her, and we had some difficulty in persuading him
that he must not attempt to leave the house. You see there is abundant
room, little lady, so why not come?"

"Thanks, I think not; I'm not ready to drive," was her confused answer;
and yet I saw that she had been out. Her hat and gloves lay there upon
the table. Her costume was perfect--and so was her determination.

The carriage came and we drove off, leaving her smiling and kissing her
hand gayly from the balcony above our heads. Pauline glanced back
lovingly at her as we turned the corner.

"Isn't she exquisite?" she said to Harrod, whose eyes, too, were fixed
upon the fairy-like little figure until 'twas hidden from our sight.

"Yes, and utterly incomprehensible. Last night she was in the depths of
misery when she heard about Peyton's connection with that rascally
business last December. Long after the rest of us had gone to bed,
Pauline went in and told her the whole story of your night adventure and
Peyton's further rascality, and, by Jove! it acted like a
counter-irritant. She has been in a whirl of spirits all morning; but,
Paulie, she should not rush out on the streets by herself. She was out
nearly half an hour awhile ago."

"Not out of sight, Harrod. I had her in view from the balcony."

"What on earth could she find to do down on Royal Street for nearly half
an hour without going out of sight?"

Pauline smiled demurely. "Merely making some purchases at the corner, I
fancy."

"At the corner? Why, it's a cigar store."

"I did not say _in_ the corner, _M. le colonel_. Kitty is fond of
oranges."

"Then it took half an hour to buy half a dozen oranges of that old Dago
at the fruit-stand, did it? Still, that does not account for her blithe
spirits. One would think that having sent one adorer away heart-broken;
and another having vanished in disgrace (though that _was_ but a boy and
girl affair), and a third laid up as the result of the second's
rascality; a girl might be expected to suffer some pangs of remorse. I
declare I believe some women have no more conscience than kittens, and
our Kitty is one of them," said Harrod, half wrathfully.

A moment's silence, then,--

"Well, _why_ should she not want to come and meet the judge?" I asked,
with blundering persistency.

"And _why_ should she be bright as a button this afternoon?" demanded
Harrod.

Pauline smiled with conscious superiority. "I can understand it readily,
and am really surprised that you two profound thinkers should be so
utterly in the dark. I'm not going to betray her, however; you ought to
be able to see through it yourselves." And that silenced me completely.
I record it with absolute humility that not until days afterwards was it
made clear to me that when Pauline told Kitty the story of Amory's
night-ride, the latter was able to account for the first time for his
extraordinary conduct at Moreau's and the theatre; more than that, the
child then knew what it was that had brought him in the dead of night to
take one look at her window before going out to meet Peyton. As for her
refusal to go to the depot, she simply felt unable to meet in that way
Frank Amory's mother.

The train came in on time. Harrod sprang aboard, and in another moment
emerged from the Pullman escorting his gray-haired father, and with them
appeared the pale, placid face I had so admired in the picture at
Amory's tent. Dressed in black, though not in deep mourning, the gentle
lady stepped from the car, and Miss Summers, who had extended her right
hand, gave one swift glance in the peaceful eyes, then suddenly,
impulsively, threw forward both; and Harrod and I had abundant time to
welcome the judge before either lady had a word for us. When I turned
again to look at them Mrs. Amory and Pauline were still standing hand in
hand, and the latter's lovely face, flushed with happiness, and with
eyes that glistened through the starting tears, was hardly more
beautiful than the sweet, sorrow-worn features of her who had found
"that peace which the world cannot give," and in the sanctity of her
bereaved life had learned the lesson of resignation,--the blessed hope
of a blessed future. We would not interrupt them as they stood gazing
into each other's eyes--the mother and her boy's devoted friend. It
seemed best that from Pauline she should hear of Frank's improvement; of
his captain's convalescence; and that the bonds of sympathy that drew
them in such close alliance should there be riveted without my
customary interference; but neither lady was forgetful of us, and
turning to me, Mrs. Amory, in that soft, sweet voice men love to
hear,--all the more winning for its Southern accent,--asked,--

"And is not this Mr. Brandon, my boy's friend?" And then Mr. Brandon had
the happiness of clasping her hand, and presently of leading her to her
carriage. She was impatient to get to her son, and it was soon arranged
that Pauline should drive up to see her later in the evening, and then
we separated. Ten minutes more and the orderly opened the door, and,
obedient to my beckoning finger, stepped out as the lady was ushered in.
We only heard the glad ring in Frank's brave young voice; one cry of
"Mother!" and then we closed the door and left them together.

An hour afterwards, Mr. Parker and I walked over from headquarters to
pay our respects to Mrs. Amory and escort her to her lodgings, where
hospitable Madame R---- was waiting to welcome her and refresh her with
tea. We found the doctor there in blithe chat with his patient and that
now happy mother. Very sweet and gentle was her greeting for us. She
seemed to know just what to say to each and every one, and charmed
Parker at once, as she had me, by her lovely manner and voice. Almost
the first question was, "Can we not move Frank over with me?"

But Mars protested. Here he was right near his troop; could hear the
trumpet-calls and the voices of the men at times; and so felt _with_
them. The doctor would not let him go to duty for forty-eight hours at
the least,--perhaps not then,--and he wanted to remain where he was.

Parker laughingly offered to come and occupy the room if he really
thought an officer must be with the troop, and then the doctor said his
say. A carriage could be there in ten minutes; he was all dressed; he
might just as well move over to Madame's, a square away; be in
comfortable quarters, and have his mother in the adjoining room. The
project was decided on in spite of him. Parker scurried over to Camp
Street, and came back with information that just such rooms as were
needed were there in readiness, and when the carriage came, our boy was
half lifted, half led, down the stairs, and correspondingly transferred
to new and cosey quarters nearly opposite headquarters. Some of the men
brought over the trunk and his few belongings, but when it came time to
start, Mars himself had stretched forth his hand and gathered in a
beautiful bunch of sweet wild violets whose fragrance had filled the
little room. I had noticed them on the table by his side the moment we
entered, and now conceived it time to inquire whence they came.

"I'm not quite sure," said Amory, with something vastly like a blush.
"They were left here an hour or so before mother came, and I think Miss
Summers must have sent them."

And yet that evening, when Pauline and Colonel Summers came to see Mrs.
Amory for a few moments, I was still there. The violets were by Amory's
bedside up-stairs; Mrs. Amory made no allusion to them, but I did,
unblushingly; and neither affirming nor denying that she had sent them,
Miss Summers silenced me by saying that she was glad they gave Mr. Amory
pleasure, and instantly changed the subject and addressed her talk to
her lady friend. Driving home, however, she was at my mercy and I again
pressed the matter. A keen suspicion was actually beginning to glimmer
in my brain.

"_You_ sent those violets of course, Miss Summers?"

"If so, why ask me, Mr. Brandon?"

"Well! _Didn't_ you, then?"

"No, sir; I never even knew of their being sent." And Miss Summers was
plainly and mischievously enjoying my perplexity.

Leaving me at my rooms, the brother and sister continued on their
homeward way and their enthusiastic chat about Mrs. Amory, which my
unfeeling curiosity had broken in upon. It was quite late and my letters
had been brought up from the office. First on the package was the one
for which I was eagerly waiting,--the answer to my diplomatic missive to
Bella Grayson. Ignoring all others I plunged instanter into that, and
was rewarded--as I deserved.

     "DEAR UNCLE GEORGE," she wrote.--"It was such a treat and so rare
     an honor to receive a letter from your august hand, that for some
     time I could not believe it was intended for me at all. Indeed, to
     be _very_ frank, the closing page rather confirmed me in that
     impression. You men always taunt us by saying that the gist of a
     woman's letter lies in the postscript (one cynical acquaintance of
     mine went so far as to say that it lies all the way through), and
     yet not until that last page was reached did I discover the object
     of yours. Now, Uncle Georgy, isn't that circumlocution itself?
     Confess.

     "But you really _do_ seem 'interested in young Amory,' as you call
     him; and his 'evident admiration for a fair young friend of
     yours--an heiress--commands your entire sympathy.' What a
     cold-blooded, mercenary avowal, _M. mon oncle_! or, do you--is it
     possible that you mean--you too are interested in her? No! That is
     hardly tenable as a supposition. There is something so disingenuous
     about the rest of the letter that your interest is evidently on his
     account. Thank you ever so much for 'having half a mind to take me
     into your confidence.' And now, how can I dispel your perplexity?
     With the best intentions in the world, how powerless I am!

     "You believe he has some lady correspondent up North. Well, that
     strikes me as quite a reasonable supposition. Indeed, I have heard
     that most of them have; but what--what did I _ever_ say to lead to
     such a remark as this: 'Knowing what susceptible fellows cadets are
     (from your own statements)'? What could I ever have said to give
     you such an impression? Why, Uncle George, _how_ should I know
     whether they are susceptible or not? and how could you be so cruel
     as to allude to the dismal fact that I had been up there every
     summer for six or eight years, and am still Bella Grayson? Does
     _that_ look as though I thought them susceptible?

     "But seriously; you say that Mr. Amory has become involved in 'some
     entanglement there from which he would now gladly escape,' and you
     fancy that Mr. Amory has done me the honor to make me his
     confidante; but herein you are mistaken. Certainly I have never
     heard a word from him of an 'entanglement,' nor do I remember his
     being devoted to any young girl in particular. Indeed, he struck me
     as being rather general in his attentions, what little I saw of
     him. It would be a great pleasure, no doubt, 'to help him out of
     his boyish folly and into something worth having,' to use your own
     words, but indeed, Uncle George, you overrate my influence
     entirely.

     "Nevertheless, I always liked Mr. Amory very much, and am greatly
     interested in his romance. Perhaps if you were to tell me what he
     _said_ to make you think he wanted to escape from his Northern
     entanglement, I might be able to recall some one of his flames to
     whom the remarks would be applicable. Tell me what you _know_ and
     then my 'thinking-cap' may be put on to some advantage. Just now
     I'm much in the dark, and, except very casually indeed, have not
     heard from Mr. Amory for quite a while (How definite!--G. S. B.),
     and as he never mentioned this new charmer to his 'confidante,' I
     am most curious to hear of her. Do tell me who she is, what she is
     like. Is she pretty? of course that is the first question; is
     she--anything, everything, in fact? Do be a good Uncle Georgy and
     write. We were all so glad to hear from you, but as I answered, I
     shall expect an answer equally prompt. So write speedily to

     "Your loving niece,

     "BELLA."

When Mr. Brandon finally sought his bachelor pillow that night, it is
regretfully recorded that he, like Dogberry, remembered that he was writ
an ass.



CHAPTER XVII.


Two days after Mrs. Amory's arrival, I was seated in Madame R----'s
cosey parlor. Beside me in an easy-chair, and dressed in his fatigue
uniform, was Mars. On the table beside him were two bunches of violets
in their respective tumblers. One fresh and fragrant, the other faded
and droopy. It was late in the afternoon; Mrs. Amory had gone with Mr.
Parker in search of a little fresh air and exercise, and Mars had
dropped his newspaper to give me a pleasant welcome. He was a little
languid and tired, he said; "had to write a long letter that morning."
And here he looked very strangely at me, "but felt better now that 'twas
gone." I could not but fancy that there was a constraint, a vaguely
injured tone, in his quiet talk. There was a lack of the old, cordial
ring in his voice, though he was every bit as courteous, even as
friendly as ever. It was something that puzzled me, and I wanted to get
at once at the why and wherefore, yet shrunk from questioning.

Somehow or other my psychological investigations and inquiries had not
been crowned with brilliant success of late, and distrust had taken the
place of the serene confidence with which I used to encounter such
problems. "Mother has taken the letter to post," he said, "but will be
back very soon. I expect her any moment." As we were talking there came
a ring at the bell. A servant passed the doorway, and in an instant
reappeared ushering two ladies, Miss Summers followed by Kitty
Carrington.

"Why, Frank Amory! How glad I am to see you up again!" was the delighted
exclamation of the former, as she quickly stepped forward to take his
hand; "and here's Kitty," she added, with faintly tremulous tone.
"We--Kitty hoped to see your mother, and they said she was here."

"Mother will be back in a moment. How do you do, Miss Carrington?" said
Mars, looking around Pauline in unmistakable eagerness, and with
coloring cheeks and brow, as he strove to rise and hold out his hand.

"Don't try to get up, Mr. Amory," said Kitty, timidly, half imploringly,
as with downcast eyes, and cheeks far more flushed than his own, she
quickly stepped to his side; just touched his hand, and then dropped
back to the sofa without so much as a word or glance for miserable me.
For several minutes Pauline chatted gayly, as though striving to give
every one time to regain composure. Kitty sat silently by; once in
awhile stealing timid, startled glances around; and listening
nervously, as though for the coming footsteps of some one she dreaded to
meet. Pauline watched her with furtive uneasiness, and occasionally
looked imploringly at me.

To my masculine impenetrability there was only one point in the
situation. Mrs. Amory had arrived here in town--a stranger. Miss Summers
and Miss Carrington were not exactly old residents, but were "to the
manner born," and it behooved them both to call upon the older lady. Why
should there be any cause for embarrassment? Why should Kitty look ill
at ease, nervous, distressed? Why should Mars be so unusually excited
and flighty? What was there about the whole proceeding to upset any
one's equanimity? What incomprehensible mysteries women were, anyhow!
Bella Grayson especially! What dolts they made men appear in trying to
conform to their whims and vagaries! What a labor of Hercules it was to
attempt to fathom their moods! What----The door opened and in came Mrs.
Amory and Parker. All rose to greet them, and I could see that Kitty,
pale as a sheet, was trembling from head to foot.

At least I had sense enough to appreciate and admire once more the grace
and tact and genuine kindliness that seemed to illumine every act and
word of this gracious lady. Mrs. Amory went at once to Kitty; greeted
her in the same low-toned yet cordial voice that had already become the
subject of our admiring talk; then, after a brief word with each of us,
had taken her seat with Kitty upon the sofa, and in five minutes had so
completely won the trust and confidence of that nervous little body that
her color had returned in all its brilliancy; her lovely dark eyes were
sparkling with animation and interest; and though she talked but little,
we could all see that she was charmed with Mrs. Amory's manner, and that
she drank in every word with unflagging pleasure.

Mars, though keeping up a desultory talk with Miss Summers and Parker,
managed to cast frequent glances at the pair on the sofa, and it was a
comfort to watch the joy that kindled in his young eyes. Pauline seemed
to divine his wish to watch them, and frequently took the load of
conversation from his shoulders by absorbing the attention of the
aide-de-camp and myself, and this gave him the longed-for opportunity to
listen once in a while to the talk between his mother and Kitty. Once,
glancing furtively towards his chair, Kitty's eyes had encountered his
fixed intently upon her, whereat the color flashed again to the roots of
her hair, and the long lashes and white lids dropped instantly over her
betraying orbs. From that marvellous and intricate encyclopædia of
family history, a Southern woman's brain, Mrs. Amory had brought forth
an array of facts regarding Kitty's relatives that fairly delighted
that little damsel with its interest. Somewhere in the distant past a
North Carolina Ward had married a Kentucky Carrington; and while she
herself had married an officer of the army, her sister had married a
Ward; and so it went. Mrs. Amory could tell Kitty just where and whom
her people had married from the days of Daniel Boone. The chat went
blithely on, and so, when Miss Summers smilingly rose and said that it
was time to go, Kitty looked startled and incredulous,--the dreaded
interview had been a genuine pleasure to her. Mars arose and stood erect
as the ladies were saying their adieux. Pauline was saying to Mrs. Amory
that by the next day Major Vinton would hope to be able to drive out for
the air, and as soon as possible would come to see her; and this left
Kitty for an instant unoccupied. Her eyes would not wander in his
direction, however; and after an instant's irresolute pause he stepped
beside her, so that, as they turned to go, she _had_ to see his
outstretched hand. I wanted to see what was to follow, but Parker and I
had sidled towards the door to escort the ladies to their carriage. Miss
Summers caught my eyes; seemed instantly to read my vile curiosity, for,
with a smile that was absolutely mischievous, she placed herself between
me and Kitty, who was last to leave the room. I only saw him bend low
over her hand; could not catch a word he said, and was calmly surged
out into the hall with ungratified and baffled spirit. It was cruel in
Pauline. She ought to have known that I was even more interested in the
affair than any woman could have been.

"What do you think of Mrs. Amory?" I delicately and appropriately asked
Miss Kitty as we drove down-town. She was in a revery, and not disposed
to talk; and Miss Summers, who had invited me to take a seat in their
carriage, had given me no opportunity of breaking in upon her
meditations until this moment. Kitty started from her dream; flashed one
quick glance at me, as she answered,--

"Mrs. Amory? I think she's _lovely_," then as quickly relapsed into her
fit of abstraction. Evidently Mr. Brandon's well-meant interruptions
were not especially welcome there; then, as we reached the house on
Royal Street, Major Vinton, seated at the window, waved us (_us_
indeed!) a joyous greeting, and, despite Miss Summers' most courteous
invitation to come in a while, Mr. Brandon felt that he had been
interloping long enough, and having thus partially come to his senses,
the narrator walked dolefully away.

In the week that followed, there were almost daily visits between the
ladies of the Royal and Camp Street households. Vinton had sufficiently
improved to be able to drive out every day and to take very short walks,
accompanied by his radiant _fiancée_. Much mysterious shopping was
going on, Mrs. Amory and Kitty being occupied for some hours each bright
morning in accompanying Miss Summers on her Canal Street researches.
Mars had returned to duty with his troop, and almost every evening could
be seen riding down to Royal Street to report to his captain how matters
were progressing. I was struck by the regularity and precision with
which those reports seemed to be necessary, and the absolute brevity of
their rendition. Having nothing better to do, as I fancied, I was
frequently there at Royal Street when Mars would come trotting down the
block pavement. Each evening seemed to add to the spring and activity
with which he would vault from the saddle; toss the reins to his
attendant orderly, and come leaping up the steps to the second floor.
"All serene" was the customary extent of his report to Vinton, who was
almost invariably playing backgammon with Miss Summers at that hour;
while the judge, Harrod, and I would be discussing the affairs of the
day in a distant corner. This left Kitty the only unoccupied creature in
the room, unless the listless interest bestowed upon the book she held
in her lap could be termed occupation. What more natural, therefore,
than that Mr. Amory should turn to her for conversation and
entertainment on his arrival? And then Kitty had improved so in health
and spirits of late. She was so blithe and gay; humming little snatches
of song; dancing about the old house like a sprite; striving very hard
to settle down and be demure when I came to see the judge; and never
entirely succeeding until Amory appeared, when she was the
personification of maidenly reserve and propriety. Occasionally Mars
would escort his mother down, and then there would be a joyous
gathering, for we had all learned to love her by this time; and as for
Vinton--Miss Summers once impetuously declared that she was with good
reason becoming jealous. When _she_ came, Kitty would quit her customary
post on the sofa; take a low chair, and actually hang about Mrs. Amory's
knees; and all Mars' chances for a _tête-à-tête_ were gone.
Nevertheless, he was losing much of the old shyness, and apparently
learning to lose himself in her society, and to be profoundly
discontented when she was away; and one lovely evening a funny thing
happened. There was to be a procession of some kind on Canal Street,--no
city in the world can compete with New Orleans in the number and variety
of its processions,--and as the bands were playing brilliantly over
towards the St. Charles, Vinton proposed that we should stroll thither
and hear the music. The judge offered his arm with his old-fashioned,
courtly grace to Mrs. Amory; Vinton, of course, claimed Pauline; Harrod
and I fell back together; and Amory and Kitty paired off both by force
of circumstances and his own evident inclination. Once on the
_banquette_, Amory showed a disposition to linger behind and take the
rear with his sweet companion, but Miss Kit would none of it. With
feminine inconsistency and coquettishness she fairly took the lead, and
so it resulted that she and Amory headed instead of followed the party.
Plainly Mars was a little miffed; but he bore up gallantly, and had a
most unexpected and delightful revenge.

At the very first crossing, something of a crowd had gathered about the
cigar store, and so it resulted for a moment that our party was brought
to a stand, all in a bunch, right by the old Dago's orange counter to
which Harrod had made disdainful allusion in connection with Kitty's
mysterious mission of the previous week; and now, close beside the
counter, there was seated a chatty old negress with a great basket
before her heaped with violets: some in tiny knots, others in loose
fragrant pyramids. The instant she caught sight of Kitty her face beamed
with delight. She eagerly held forward her basket; Kitty struggled as
though to push ahead through the throng on the narrow pavement, but all
to no purpose. She could not move an inch; and there, imprisoned, the
little beauty, bewildered with confusion and dismay, was forced to hear
what we all heard, the half-laughing, half-reproachful appeal of the
darky flower-vender.

"Ah, lady! you doan' come to me no mo' for vi'lets now de captain's up
agin." And there was no help for it; one and all we burst into a peal of
merry laughter; even poor Kitty, though she stamped her foot with
vexation and turned away in vehement wrath. And oh! how proud, wild with
delight Frank Amory looked as he bent over her and strove to make some
diversion in her favor by boring a way through the crowd and hurrying
her along! We could see him all the rest of the evening striving hard to
make her forget that which he _never_ could. But Kitty had only one
feminine method of revenging herself, and that was on him. Womanlike,
she was cold and distant to him all the evening; left him at every
possible opportunity to lavish attentions on anybody else,--even me; and
after all Mars went home that night looking far from happy.

No sooner was he out of the house than Harrod turned to me with an
expression of inspired idiocy on his face and said, "What was it you
were all laughing at up there at the corner,--something about violets
and captains?"

Whereat Kitty flounced indignantly out of the room, and we saw her no
more that night.

But all this time not another word had I heard from Bella Grayson. In
fact, not a word had I written to her. She had parried the verbal
thrusts in my letter with such consummate ease and skill that it
occurred to me I was no match for her in that sort of diplomacy. Now
the question that was agitating my mind was, how was Mars to get out of
that entanglement if it really existed? My efforts in his behalf did not
seem to be rewarded with the brilliant and immediate success that such
depth of tact had deserved; and, my intervention being of no avail, what
could he expect?

Fancy the surprise, therefore, with which I received on the following
day a visit from Mars himself. It was late in the afternoon; I was alone
in the office and hard at work finishing some long neglected business,
when the door opened and my young cavalryman appeared.

He shook my hand cordially; said that he had come to see me on personal
business; and asked if I could give him half an hour. I gladly said yes,
and, noting his heightened color and his evident embarrassment, bade him
pull up a chair and talk to me as he would to an old chum. I can best
give his story in nearly his own words.

"Mother says I owe it to you, Mr. Brandon, to tell you what has been on
my mind so long. You have been very kind and very indulgent, and I wish
I had told you my trouble long ago. I'll make it short as I can." And
with many a painful blush--but with manful purpose and earnestness--Mars
pushed ahead.

"I met Miss Grayson, your niece, during my first class summer at West
Point, and got to admire her, as everybody else did. I got to more than
admire her. She absolutely fascinated me. I don't mean that she tried to
in the least,--she just couldn't help it. Before camp was half over I
was just beside myself about her; couldn't be content if I didn't see
her every day; take her to the hops, and devote myself generally. Every
man in the class thought I was dead in love with her. Mr. Brandon, I--I
did myself. I never ceased to think so--until last--until after that
Ku-Klux fight at Sandbrook. I _made_ her think so. She really tried to
talk me out of it at first,--she did indeed. She said that it was simply
a fancy that I would soon outgrow; and she never for once could be
induced to say that she cared anything for me. She was always lovely and
ladylike, always perfect, it seemed to me. She even went so far as to
remind me that she was as old as I was, and far older in the ways of the
world, and cadets especially. She never encouraged me one bit, and I
just went on getting more and more in love with her all that year; used
to write to her three or four times a week; dozens of letters that she
only occasionally answered. Then she came up in June, and I was
incessantly at her side. She might not care for me, but she did not seem
to care for anybody else, and so it went on. She would not take my class
ring when I begged her to that summer. She wore it a few days, but made
me take it back the day we graduates went away; but I went back that
summer to see her twice, and when I came away I swore that after I'd
been in service a year I would return to New York to offer myself again;
and we used to write to each other that winter, only her letters were
not like mine. They were nice and friendly and all that,--still, I knew
she had my promise. I thought she would expect me to come back. I felt
engaged so far as I was concerned; then when I got wounded her letters
grew far more interested, you know (Mr. Brandon nodded appreciatively);
and then they began to come often; and, whether it was that she thought
our life was very hazardous, or that the climate was going to be a bad
thing for me, or that I would not recover rapidly there, her letters
began to urge me to come North. I got two at Sandbrook--one the very day
you were there at the tent--and two since we came here; and then--then I
found only too surely that it was not love I felt for her; indeed, that
I had grown to love--you know well enough (almost defiantly)--Miss
Carrington. I felt in honor bound to carry out my promise to Miss
Grayson, and to avoid--to--well, to be true to my promise in every way.
But I was utterly miserable. Mother detected it in my letters, and at
last I broke down and told her the truth. She said there was only one
honorable course for me to pursue, and that was to write to Miss
Grayson and tell her the same, tell her the whole truth; and it was an
awful wrench, but I did it that day you were at the house. It came hard
too, for only the day before a letter came from her full of all sorts of
queer things. A little bird had whispered that, like all the rest, I had
found my cadet attachment something to be forgotten with the gray coat
and bell buttons. She had heard this, that, and the other thing; she
would not reproach. It was only what she had predicted all along, etc.,
and it cut me up like blazes; but mother smiled quietly when I told her,
said that I must expect to be handled without gloves, and warned me that
I must look for very _just_ comments on my conduct; and then somehow I
decided that you had written to her about me. You said nothing to make
me think so, and altogether I was in an awful stew until this morning."

"And what now?" I asked, eagerly.

"Her answer came. Brandon, she's a trump; she's a gem; and so's her
letter. Mother's got it, and is writing to her herself. I'm
inexpressibly humbled, but somehow or other happier than I've ever
been." And the boy and I shook hands warmly, and Mr. Brandon bethought
himself that that blessed Bella should have the loveliest Easter present
the avuncular purse could buy.

"What did Bella say?" he asked.

"Oh! I can't quite tell you. It was all just so sweet and warm-hearted
and congratulatory (though that is possibly premature), and just as
lovely a letter as ever was written."

"And we may look for two weddings in the --th Cavalry, then?"

But Mars' features clouded. "Vinton and Miss Summers will be married
next month; for Vinton says we may expect to be ordered to the plains
with the coming of summer, but no such luck for me. I have precious
little hope just now."

"And has Miss Carrington heard of our Bella?" I asked, mischievously.

"Good heavens! I hope not. That would be the death-blow to everything."

Yes, it struck me that _there_ would be a weapon that Miss Kit would use
with merciless power.



CHAPTER XVIII.


It was a gala night at the opera. The grand old house, so perfect in
acoustic properties, so comfortably old-fashioned in design, so quaintly
foreign in all its appointments, was filled with an audience composed of
the music-loving people of New Orleans, and a sprinkling of Northern
visitors still lingering amid the balmy odors of the magnolia and the
orange-blossoms. Spring had come,--summer was coming. The sun was
already high and warm enough to warrant the appearance of parasols by
day; while, after it sank to rest, the ray-warmed breezes were welcomed
through open door and casement; and in hundreds of slender hands the
fan, swung and flirted with the indolent grace our Southern women have
so readily learned from their Castilian sisterhood across the sea,
stirred the perfumed air, and rustled soft accompaniment to the witchery
of the music.

Entering that old French opera-house on Bourbon Street, one steps on
foreign soil. America is left behind. French is the language of every
sign, of the libretto, even of the programme. French only is or was then
spoken by the employés of the house. French the orchestra, the chorus,
the language of the play. French, everything but the music. The
ornamentation of the house, the arrangement of the boxes, the very
division of the audience was the design of foreign hands, and here, more
readily than anywhere in our land, could one imagine oneself abroad.

These were days of triumph for the stockholders of the old company. The
somewhat over-gilded and too ornate decorations might have lost much of
their freshness, the upholstery had grown worn and faded; but the
orchestra and the company were admirable. Aiming at perfection and
completeness in all details, the managers had kept up the old system of
putting everything _thoroughly_ upon the stage. Costumes and properties,
though old, were accurate and appropriate; the chorus was full,
admirably schooled and disciplined; and the orchestra, in the days when
Calabresi's _bâton_ called it into life, had no superior in the country.
Instead of lavishing fortunes on some one marvellous _prima donna_ and
concomitant tenor, the aim of the management had been to secure
excellent voices, good actors, conscientious artists, and so be sure of
rendering an opera in its entirety,--every part well and suitably
filled, instead of turning the grand creations of the great composers
into mere concert recitations. One heard the opera in New Orleans as he
heard it nowhere else in the country, and there, and there only of all
its places of public amusement, could one see in full force the culture
and the refinement of the Crescent City.

It was a "full dress" night. The parquet was filled with men in the
conventional black swallow-tail. The dress and second circles of open
boxes, the _loges_ behind them, were brilliant with the toilets of
beautifully-dressed women; and in one of these latter enclosures were
seated Miss Summers and Kitty, behind whom could be seen Vinton, Amory,
and Harrod.

Leaving my seat in the parquet, I strolled up to their box immediately
after the curtain fell upon the first act of "The Huguenots." Some
forty-eight hours had passed since my meeting with Mars, and that vivid
curiosity of mine was all aflame as to the later developments. Both
ladies turned and gave me cordial welcome as I entered. Vinton made room
for me behind Miss Summers' chair, and Harrod strolled out to see some
friends.

Though both officers were in civilian evening dress, the story of
Pauline's engagement was known among the few acquaintances she had in
society, and her escort, a stranger to the city, was doubtless assumed
to be the Yankee major. It was too soon after the war for such an
alliance to be looked on with favor by those who had recently been in
bitter hostility to the army blue, and the few glances or nods of
recognition that passed between Miss Summers and a party of ladies in an
adjoining box were constrained--even cold. To my proud-spirited friend
this was a matter of little consequence. If anything, it served only the
more deeply and firmly to attach her to the gallant gentleman, still
pale and languid from his recent illness, who so devotedly hovered about
her the entire evening. Her sweet, womanly face was full of the deepest
tenderness as she leaned back to speak to him from time to time, and
soon, with woman's quick intuition, observing that I was anxious to
watch Kitty and Mars, she delightedly resigned herself to my abstraction
and gave her undivided attention to Vinton.

Never in my brief acquaintance with her had Kitty Carrington looked so
bewitchingly pretty. Never were her eyes so deep, dark, lustrous;
never--I could plainly see--so dangerous. Never was her color so
brilliant, never were her lips so red, her teeth so flashingly white;
and never yet had I seen her when all her fascinations were so
mercilessly levelled at a victim's heart, even while she herself was
tormenting him to the extent of every feminine ingenuity. The situation
was plain at a single glance.

Her greeting to me had been coquettishly cordial, and for a moment she
looked as though she expected me to accept Mr. Amory's proffered chair
at her back. But Mars had risen with so rueful a look in his
eyes--something so appealing and wistful in his bearing--that I had the
decency to decline; and with vast relief of manner he slid back into his
seat, and the torment went on.

In low, eager tones he was murmuring to her over the back of her chair.
She--with head half turned, so that one little ear, pink and shell-like,
was temptingly near his lips--was listening with an air of saucy triumph
to his pleadings,--whatever they were,--her long lashes sweeping down
over her flushed cheeks, and her eyes, only at intervals, shooting
sidelong glances at him. What he was saying I could not hear, but never
saw I man so plunged in the depths of fascination. His eyes never left
their adoring gaze upon her face, yet they were full of trouble, full of
pleading that might have moved a heart of stone. But Kitty was
merciless. At last there came a bubble of soft, silvery laughter and the
mischievous inquiry,--

"And how should a lady answer? How--Miss Grayson, for instance?"

For a moment there was no word of reply. Amory sat like one in a daze.
Then very slowly he drew back, and I could see that his hand was
clinched and that his bright young face had paled. Alarmed at his
silence, toying nervously with her fan, she strove to see his eyes, yet
dared not look around. Mars slowly rose to his feet, bent calmly over
her, and, though his voice trembled and his lips were very white, he
spoke distinctly, even cuttingly,--

"Miss Grayson would have answered at least with courtesy
and--good-night, Miss Carrington."

And before another word could be said he had quickly bowed to the rest
of us and abruptly quited the box.

Evidently she had tormented him until his quick, impulsive, boyish
nature could bear it no longer,--until his spirit had taken fire at her
merciless coquetry,--and then, giving her no chance to retract or
relent, he had vanished in choking indignation. Kitty sat still as a
statue one little minute, turning from red to white. Pauline, who had
heard only Amory's sudden words of farewell, looked wonderingly up an
instant, then seeing plainly that there had been a misunderstanding, and
that remark or interference would only complicate matters, she wisely
turned back to Vinton, and the rising of the curtain gave all an excuse
to concentrate their eyes, if not their thoughts, upon the stage.

But the opera was an old story to me. Kitty was a novelty, a study of
constantly varying phases, a picture I never tired of gazing at, and now
she was becoming even more--a perfect fascination. Pauline glanced
furtively, anxiously, at her from time to time, but I,--I most
unblushingly watched and stared. She was manifestly ill at ease and
grievously disquieted at the result of her coquetry. Her brilliant color
had fled. Her eyes, suspiciously moistened, wandered nervously about the
house, as though searching for her vanished knight, that they might
flash their signal of recall. I, too, kept an eye on the parquet and the
lobby, far as I could see, vaguely hoping that Mars might relent and
take refuge there, when his wrath would have time to cool, and he could
be within range of her fluttering summons to "come back and be
forgiven." But the second act came to a close. Mars never once appeared.
Vinton and Miss Summers once or twice addressed some tentative remark to
Kitty, as though to bring her again into the general conversation and
cover her evident distress; but monosyllabic replies and quivering lips
were her only answer. I began to grow nervous, and decided to sally
forth in search of my peppery hero. My ministrations had been vastly
potent and diplomatic thus far, and might be again. So, with a word or
two of excuse, I made my bow and strolled into the _foyer_.

One or two acquaintances detained me a few moments, but during the
intermission between the acts I was able to satisfy myself that Mr.
Amory was no longer in the house. Indeed, some of the officers stationed
in town told me that they had seen him crossing the street just as they
re-entered. Presently I met Colonel Newhall, and his first question
was,--

"How is Vinton to-night?"

"Very well, apparently. Do you want to see him?"

"Not particularly. He is here, I believe. You might tell him that his
sick-leave is granted. It may be welcome news to him--just now."

"Naturally: as he expects to be married next month."

"Yes. I'm glad he got the leave--when he did," said the colonel, as he
turned away to speak to some friends.

Something in his manner set me to thinking. What could he mean by saying
that he was glad Vinton had secured his leave of absence? Was any sudden
move probable? Amory did say that it was current talk that their
regiment was to be ordered to the frontier in the spring. Could it be
that the order had already come?

I went back to the box. Kitty looked eagerly around as I entered, then
turned back in evident disappointment. Not a word was exchanged between
us until the close of the act; but for two occupants of the _loge_ "The
Huguenots" had lost all interest.

It was eleven o'clock and after as we reached the lodgings on our return
from the opera. Mars had nowhere appeared, though Kitty's eyes sought
him in the throng at the doorway, and, as we drew near the house, she
looked eagerly ahead at a soldierly form in cavalry undress uniform. A
corporal of the troop was lounging under the gas-light at the entrance.
The moment he caught sight of our party he stepped forward and handed
Vinton a letter.

There was nothing unusual about a letter arriving for Major Vinton--day
or night. Orderlies came frequently to the old house on Royal Street
with bulky missives for him; yet I felt a premonition in some
inexplicable way that this was no ordinary communication. It was a mere
note, and I thought the corporal said, "From the lieutenant, sir." Yet I
knew it meant tidings of importance,--and so did others.

Miss Summers had withdrawn her hand from Vinton's arm as he took the
note, and with deep anxiety in her paling face stood watching him as he
opened and read it under the lamp. Kitty too had stepped forward, and,
resting one little hand on the stone post at the doorway, gazed with
equal intensity and a face that was paler yet than her cousin's. Harrod
and I, a little behind them, were silent witnesses. Presently Vinton
looked up, his eyes seeking the face he loved.

"What is it?" she asked.

"Our orders have come."

For an instant no one spoke. I could not take my eyes off Kitty, whose
back was towards me, but who I could see was struggling hard for
composure. Pauline instinctively put forth her hand, drawing Kitty
closer to her side.

"Shall I read it?" asked Vinton, gently, looking at Pauline, after one
hurried glance at Kitty. She nodded assent.

"It is from Amory," he said.

     "DEAR MAJOR,--Parker has just met me. The orders are out. Regiment
     ordered to Dakota. Our troop goes by first boat to St. Louis. Your
     leave is granted, so it does not affect you; but--I'm glad to go.
     Parker says by 'James Howard' to-morrow night.

     "Yours in haste,

     "AMORY"

Without a word Kitty Carrington turned from us and hurried into the
house.

"What on earth could take the regiment to Dakota?" asked Harrod, after a
moment of silence.

"The Sioux have been troublesome all along the Missouri and Yellowstone
of late, and this is anything but unexpected. We had a lively campaign
against the Southern Cheyennes, you remember, and this promises more
work of the same kind, only much farther north."

Pauline's eyes were filling with tears. I was plainly _de trop_, and had
sense enough left to appreciate that fact at least. Promising to meet
Vinton at headquarters in the morning, I took my departure. I had made
up my mind, late as it was, to go and see Amory; and, late as it was, I
found him in earnest talk with his mother.

"Can you spare me a moment?" I asked. "I have just heard the news, and
if it be true you sail to-morrow night, you will be too much occupied
to-morrow."

He had come to the door to admit me, and looked reluctantly back.
Hearing my voice, Mrs. Amory came into the hall to greet me, and
courteously as ever she asked me to enter; but I saw the traces of tears
on her face, and knew that their time was precious.

"I want to have a moment's talk with this young man, Mrs. Amory. I will
not take him farther than the corner, and will not keep him longer than
five minutes at the utmost. Can you spare him that long?"

She smiled assent, but Mars hung back. He knew well that I was once
again coming forward with some intervention, and his blood was up, his
anger still aglow; but I was not to be denied. He seized his forage-cap
and stepped out with me into the starlit night.

"There is no time for apologies from an old fellow like me, Amory," said
I, placing a hand involuntarily on his shoulder. "Forgive me if I pain
you, or am too intrusive. I heard what happened at the opera to-night.
Would you be willing to tell me how she came to know anything about
Bella Grayson?"

"I told Miss Carrington myself," said Mars, rather shortly; and his
hands went down in his pockets, and a very set look came into his face
as he kicked at a projecting ledge in the uneven pavement.

"You know how I've grown to like you, youngster, and _must_ know that I
can have no other impulse or excuse in thus meddling with your affairs.
I'm fond of her too, Frank, and have seen enough to-night--and
before--to convince me that she would give a vast deal to unsay those
thoughtless words. I do not excuse her conduct; but she never for an
instant could have dreamed of its effect, and it did not take the news
of your order to make her repent it bitterly. I could see that plainly.
Amory, _don't_ go without seeing her."

Mars made no reply whatever.

"Have you told your mother of this misunderstanding?" I asked.

"Not exactly. I have told her--she saw I was cut up about something and
asked--that something had been said that was very hard to bear, but that
I had rather not talk of it now. I was too much hurt."

"Well. Then I must say nothing further, my boy; but if I may ask
anything for the sake of the friendship I feel for you and for them,
tell your mother the whole affair, and let her guide your action. Now,
forgive me, and good-night. We will meet in the morning."

He pressed my hand cordially enough, but still made no reply to my
request. "Thank you, Mr. Brandon; good-night," was all he said, and Mr.
Brandon walked gloomily homeward. _Amantium iræ_ might be easy things to
settle if left to the participants, but were vastly easier to stumble
into.

Clear, cloudless, lovely dawned the morrow, and long before office hours
I had breakfasted and betaken myself to headquarters. Mr. Parker was
there, and Amory had been at the office, but Vinton had as yet put in no
appearance. My first question was as to the probable time of departure
of the troop, and Parker's tidings filled me with hope. The
quartermaster had been unable to secure transportation for the horses in
the "Howard." The troops could not sail before the following day.
Meantime, he said, there was to be a review of the small force in the
city that very afternoon, and the general had expressed a desire to have
a look at the cavalry once more before they started for their new and
distant sphere of duty. It was his favorite arm of the service, and he
hated to part with them.

By and by the general himself arrived, and Major Vinton happening in at
almost the same moment, "the chief" led the latter into his private
office and held him there for over half an hour in conversation. An
orderly was despatched for Mr. Amory, who was busily occupied over at
the stables, and that young gentleman presently made his appearance,
looking somewhat dusty and fatigued. The men were packing for the move
and getting ready for their afternoon exhibition at one and the same
time, he explained. Then Vinton came out, called his subaltern to one
side, and gave him some instructions in his quiet way, and no sooner had
he finished than Amory faced about and went out of the room like a shot.
Then for the first time I had a chance to speak to Vinton and ask after
the ladies.

"Very well; at least Miss Summers is, despite her natural concern at our
sudden taking off----"

"Why, you are not going!" I interrupted.

"Yes," he answered. "As far as Memphis, at least. Then I shall leave the
troop to Amory and make for Sandbrook, whither the judge and the ladies
will start in a few days. That is," he concluded, with a smile, "unless
some new freak takes Miss Kitty Carrington. That little lady is ready to
tear her pretty hair out by the handful this morning. She did not come
to breakfast at all, and I fancy she had an unusually sharp skirmish
with Amory last night. By the way, I've got a note for him, and he's
gone,--gone clear to the foot of Canal Street, too, to look at the
accommodations on one of those smaller steamers,--and I was enjoined to
give it to him at once."

"Give it to me; I'll take it," said I, all eagerness. "What boat will he
be looking at? I'll get there in short order."

"He ought to be back here by noon," said Vinton. "It will take him not
more than an hour."

But I was eager to see Mars myself. The note must be from Kitty, I
argued; and so, indeed, I knew it to be, from the dainty envelope and
superscription when the major drew it forth. My theory was that I could
get that note to him in less than twenty minutes, and probably be the
bearer of peace propositions. It was too alluring a prospect; besides, I
was tired of waiting around headquarters doing nothing. Vinton saw my
eagerness, smiled, gave me his consent and the note, and in half an hour
I was at the levee and aboard the "Indiana." Mars had been there and
gone. So much for my officiousness.

This time I took a cab, drove rapidly back to headquarters. Neither
Vinton nor Amory was there. Mr. Parker said that the latter had galloped
up not fifteen minutes after I left, reported that the "Indiana" could
not take sixty horses, and was off again, he knew not whither. Vinton
had gone to the stables. Thither I followed.

"The major has just driven off in the quartermaster's ambulance, and
they're gone to look at some steamboat," said the corporal at the gate.
"The lieutenant's horse is back, sir, but he's gone away too."

This was a complication. It was after twelve. The review was to come off
at three. I wanted to go down and invite the ladies to drive with me to
see it. But how could I face Kitty Carrington with that undelivered
note? Over to Amory's house was the next venture. New despair. He and
his mother had taken a street-car and gone up-town only a few minutes
before I arrived. Now, what on earth could I do?

"The lieutenant's horse was to be sent to his quarters," the corporal
had informed me, "at quarter before three, and the lieutenant probably
would not be back at the stables again before that time."

For the next hour Mr. G. S. Brandon was as miserable a man as the city
contained. No one at headquarters could tell where Amory had gone. No
one knew when Vinton would be back. I fumed and fidgeted around the
office some few minutes. Neither Colonel Newhall nor Mr. Parker could
help me out in the least. There was no telling where to look for Amory.
Vinton might be found down along the levee, but what good would that
do? Twice the old general came trudging into the aide-de-camp's room,
and looked at me with suspicious eyes from under his shaggy
eyebrows,--my ill-concealed impatience and repeated inquiries made him
irritable, or my undesired presence during business hours was a nuisance
to him, perhaps; at all events, after I had for the tenth time,
probably, repeated my hopeless remark of wonderment as to where that
young gentleman could have gone, just as the general came promenading
into the room with hands clasped behind his back and his head bent upon
his breast, as we New Orleans people had grown accustomed to seeing or
hearing of him, the old soldier stopped short, and, raising his head,
testily exclaimed,--

"Mr. Brandon, what _is_ the matter? Does that young officer owe you any
money?"

"Money, sir? No, sir!" I answered, in all haste and half indignation.
"By heavens! I wish that were the matter. The boot is on the other leg,
general. I owe him something more than money. A letter, sir,--a letter
from a young lady, and I undertook to deliver it two hours ago."

April sunshine bursting through storm-cloud could not more quickly
soften and irradiate the face of nature than that wonderful smile of the
old general's could lighten every lineament. Who that ever saw it could
forget it? It beamed from the wrinkles around the kind old eyes. It
flashed from his even teeth. It dimpled his cheeks into a thousand merry
lights and shadows. It was sunshine itself, and with it all the old
courtly manner instantly returned.

"I _beg_ your pardon, sir. I beg _his_ pardon, sir. God bless my soul,
what an inexcusable blunder! A note from a young lady. That charming
little friend of Major Vinton's? Here, Parker, you go. You see if you
can't find him, sir. Bring him here, sir. Help Mr. Brandon any way you
can, sir. God bless my soul, what a blunder!" And by this time we were
all laughing too heartily for further words. My indignant and impetuous
reply had virtually betrayed the situation.

My cab being still at the door I decided to hurry right down to Royal
Street, notify the ladies of the coming review, and of the fact that the
troop would not sail until the following day, though I felt sure Vinton
had done that; then I could return to headquarters. Meantime that
precious note was placed in Parker's hands.

Whirling across Canal Street, the cab was just turning into Royal when I
caught sight of Miss Summers and Harrod on the banquette, and obedient
to my shout the driver pulled up. They turned back to greet me. Yes,
Vinton had sent word about the review and the good news that there was
yet a day before they could sail. The colonel and his sister were going
to attend to some business on Canal Street, and hurry back to meet him
at the lodgings at half-past two; then they would all drive up to see
the review near Tivoli Circle. Would I join them? Amory was to command
the troop, as the doctor thought Major Vinton not yet strong enough to
ride. But where was Amory? had I seen him?

All this was asked rapidly, as time was short, and almost as rapidly I
learned that Kitty was at home, and Pauline's eyes plainly said waiting
and anxious. I decided on driving thither at once and confessing the
enormity of my sin of omission. I would find her in their kind
landlady's parlor, said Miss Summers. So in I went.

In ten minutes Kitty Carrington fluttered into the parlor where I was
awaiting her. No need to tell that hers had been a night of unhappiness,
a day of bitter anxiety. Her sweet face was very pale and wan, her eyes
red with weeping. How to break my news I did not know. She looked
wonderingly, wistfully, at the solemnity of my face, gave me her hand
with hardly a word of greeting, and stood by the table waiting for me to
tell my errand, forgetful of the civility of asking me to be seated.

"Miss Kitty, I am in great trouble. Nearly three hours ago I volunteered
to hurry down to the levee with a letter that Major Vinton had for Mr.
Amory, but Mr. Amory and I missed each other, have missed each other
ever since. He has gone somewhere with his mother, and yet must be back
in time for the review, but I felt certain that letter ought to get to
him at once. Yet you know they do not sail until to-morrow, do you not?"

Her head was averted, her slight form was quivering and trembling, her
bosom heaving violently in the effort to control the sob that, despite
all struggles, burst from her lips. She had been waiting for him all the
morning. In another moment, for all answer, she had thrown herself upon
the sofa, and was weeping in a wild passion of unrestrained misery. Poor
little motherless Kit! and this was my doing.

In vain I strove to soothe her. In vain I protested that the letter
would soon be in his hands, that no possible harm could come from the
delay. Nay, in my eagerness and ludicrous distress I believe I knelt and
strove to draw her hands away from her face. Then she hurriedly arose,
rushed to the window, and leaning her arms upon the casement, and bowing
her pretty head upon her hands, sobbed wildly. Good heavens! what
_could_ such an old idiot do? I was powerless, helpless, wretched.

Suddenly there came a springy step along the lower passage, a quick,
bounding footfall on the stair, the clink of spurred heels upon the
matting in the hall, and Frank Amory, with a world of sunshine in his
glad young face, stood at the doorway. One glance showed him where she
stood, still weeping piteously, still blind to his presence. One spring
took him half across the room, one second to her side. I heard but one
quick, low-toned, almost ecstatic cry.

"Kitty! darling! Forgive me!"

I saw his arms enfold her. I saw her raise her head, startled, amazed.
Saw one wondering flash of light and joy in the tear-dimmed eyes, but of
what happened next I have no knowledge, not even conjecture. For once in
his life Mr. Brandon had the decency not to look, the sagacity to know
that he was no longer needed, if indeed he ever had been, and the
presence of mind to take himself off.



CHAPTER XIX.


Later that lovely afternoon an open carriage whirled up St. Charles
Street towards old Tivoli Circle. Its occupants were Miss Summers and
Kitty Carrington, Colonel Summers and myself. At the Circle we were
joined by another, in which were seated Mrs. Amory, Madame R----, and
Major Vinton. We were late, it seems, and the review had already begun,
so there was no time for conversation between the carriage-loads; but
smiles and nods and waving hands conveyed cheery greeting, and Kitty's
cheeks flamed; her eyes, half veiled as though in shy emotion, followed
Mrs. Amory's kindly face until their carriage fell behind; then,
detecting me as usual in my occupation of watching her, she colored
still more vividly, and looking bravely, saucily up into my face,
remarked,--

"Well, Mr. Brandon, have you nothing to say to me? Are you aware that
you have not even remarked upon the beauty of the weather this
afternoon?"

And this was from the girl whom, hardly two hours before, I had seen
plunged in the depths of woe and dejection. Verily, there was nothing I
could say. Such alternations of smiles and tears, storm and sunshine,
exceeded my comprehension; but it was not a tax upon even my poor powers
of discernment to see that my little heroine was now blissfully,
radiantly, joyously happy.

Suddenly our carriage slackened speed. Crowds began to appear on the
sidewalks of the broad, dusty thoroughfare. We were off the pavement
now, and driving along the "dirtroad" of upper St. Charles Street. I
could hear a burst of martial music somewhere ahead, and presently
Pauline exclaimed, "Here are the cavalry!"

Kitty, sitting on the indicated side, had said never a word. The next
moment we rode past the line of troopers sitting stolidly on their
horses and looking blankly into space ahead of them. Then, riding
backwards as I was, I saw Kitty's soft cheek flushing redder, and
happening to extend my left arm outwards at that instant, my hand almost
came in contact with the nose of a tall chestnut sorrel, much to that
sorrel's disgust, for he set back his ears and glanced savagely at me;
but by that time, I had lost all interest in him and was gazing in amaze
at his rider. For something absolutely incomprehensible, commend me to
military love-making! Less than two hours ago I had bolted out of a room
down-town leaving that deliciously pretty young girl opposite me sobbing
in the arms of Frank Amory, who, with all a devoted lover's tenderness,
was striving to comfort her. Yet here she sat, apparently indifferent;
yet there he sat on that very horse whose feelings I had outraged, and
though we--no, she--was right under his eyes,--so close that she could
stroke his charger's mane with her little hand,--he never so much as
glanced at her. Mr. Frank Amory, as commanding officer of his troop on
review, actually disdained to look at his lady-love.

"_Now_ if at any time," thought I, "this little imp of coquetry will
flash into flame and wither him when they meet,--perhaps flirt with me,
_faute de mieux_, meantime," but to my utter amaze Miss Kitty took it as
admirably as did Pauline. Each gave him one quick, demure, satisfied
little look, as much as to say, "All right, Frank, I understand." They
had learned their tactics already, I suppose, and I--was an inferior
being, unable to appreciate the situation in the least.

The review went off all right, I also suppose. It was all a blank to me.
The general and his aides rode down the line and our carriages had to
get out of the way in a hurry. Then the troops marched over to Camp
Street and down that thoroughfare, giving a marching salute as they
passed headquarters. We sat in our vehicles on the opposite side of the
street, and I simply stared when Amory lowered his sabre in sweeping,
graceful salute and positively looked away from us, and at his chief.
Why! up to this time I had been ready to take his part, and upbraid
Kitty whenever there had been the faintest difference between them. Now,
_now_, I actually wanted her to resent his conduct; and, with the
unerring inconsistency of feminine nature, she did nothing of the kind.
The instant the march was over, Frank Amory came trotting up beside
us,--a glad, glorious light in his brave young eyes,--sprang from his
saddle and to her side. The others he did not appear to see at all. His
eyes were for her alone, for her in all their boyish adoration, in all
their glowing pride and tenderness. Tearing off his gauntlet, he clasped
her hand before a word was said, and she looked shyly, yet steadfastly,
down into his transfigured face.

"I shall be down right after stables; mother will come sooner," was all
he said. Then he condescended to notice the rest of us.

Right after stables indeed! Could you not even resent _that_, Kitty
Carrington? Were you already so abject that a newly-won lover dare tell
you that after his horses were seen to he would look after you? Are you
already falling into the cavalry groove? learning that unwritten creed
that puts the care of his mount as the corner-stone of a trooper's
temple?

In a state of daze I drove homeward with the ladies. Nobody talked
much. Everybody was happy except my perturbed self. Pauline and Kitty
sat hand in hand. We reached the lodgings, and were but a few moments in
the parlor when Vinton appeared at the door ushering Mrs. Amory. Kitty
was at the window arranging some flowers, but turned instantly, and,
blushing like one of her own rosebuds, walked rapidly across the room,
looking shyly up into the elder lady's face. How could I help seeing the
moistened eye, the slightly quivering lip, when Mrs. Amory bent and,
with one softly-spoken word, "dear," kissed the bonny face.

We masculines took ourselves off for a while. It was plain the women had
much to talk about, and when they have, the sooner husbands, brothers,
and lovers leave, the better for all concerned.

"Mr. Brandon," said the major, as we settled ourselves on the back
veranda, "it looks as though your prognostication had come true. Our
Sandbrook Ku-Klux affair has brought its romance with it."

"Two of them, major! Two of them! We might call them, in view of your
modest estimate of army attractions, 'Miss Summers' Sacrifice' and,
and----"

"Kitty's Conquest," said Harrod.

       *       *       *       *       *

Swiftly through a tawny waste of whirling waters a great steamer
ploughs its way. From towering smoke-stacks volumes of smoke stream back
along the tumbling wake and settle on the low-lying shores. Breasting
the torrent, we have rushed past crowded levee, past sloop, and ship,
and shallop, past steamers of every class and build, ocean cruisers,
river monarchs, bayou traders, swamp prowlers. Lordly up-stream packets
lead or follow; churches, domes, chimneys, cotton-presses, elevators,
warehouses, give way to low, one-storied, whitewashed cottages, or
deep-veranda'd frame homesteads on the one side, to flat and open
plantations on the other. Eastward there is naught to span the horizon
but one far-reaching level of swamp or trembling prairie. Westward, two
miles back from the river-bank, bold barriers of forest, dense, dark,
and impenetrable, shut off the view. In front lies the eddying,
swirling, boiling bosom of the Mississippi,--the winding highway to the
North,--sweeping in majestic curve through shores of shining green.
Behind us, nestling along the grand arcs of its doubling bend, New
Orleans and Algiers, close clinging to the mighty stream that at once
threatens and cajoles. The river is master here, yet dreams not of his
power.

Precious freight our steamer bears this bright and balmy eve. Proud of
its strength and grace, it surges ahead, rumbling in the vast caverns
of its seething furnaces, panting in the depths of its powerful lungs,
straining with muscles that glory in their task, hurling aside from
iron-shod beak the burdened billows of the opposing river. Black as
Erebus the clouds of smoke from towering chimneys, white as snow the
screaming steam-jets, deep and mellow the note of signal-bell, clear,
ringing, rollicking the farewell chorus of our swarthy crew. Boom! goes
the roar of saucy little field-piece in parting salutation to the sun,
redly sinking through the forest to our left, and then, from the lower
deck, what unaccustomed sound is that? A trumpet, a cavalry trumpet
sounds the final tribute to departing day, and a moment later a young
officer comes springing from below and joins our group upon the
hurricane-deck.

Here enjoying the scene, the gliding rush of our gallant craft, the
balmy softness of the Southern air, we are seated, an almost silent
party of seven. We are Mrs. Amory, Miss Summers, and Kitty; Major
Vinton, Mr. Amory, Harrod, and myself. We are fellow-passengers for the
evening only. The troop, men and horses both, is billeted below, and
under command of its young lieutenant goes through to St. Louis, thence
up the Missouri to its new sphere of duties in the far Northwest. Vinton
is a passenger as far as Memphis, where escorting Mrs. Amory, he takes
the train to Washington. The rest of us, Pauline, Kitty, Harrod, and I,
go only up to Donaldsonville, where we arrive late at night, and take
the local packet back to the city. In all the excitement and
perturbation consequent upon the sudden departure of the troop; in all
the hurry of preparation, requiring as it did the attention of both
officers, there was no time for the interviews, the fond partings, the
"sweet sorrows" incident to such occasions. An unusual thing
occurred,--a bright idea struck Mr. Brandon. He proposed that the
quartette should accompany the troop a short way up the river and there
drink with them the stirrup-cup; and at last a proposition of Mr.
Brandon's was regarded worthy of acceptance. So it happens that we are
here together.

Evening comes on apace, and while Harrod is smoking somewhere forward,
and our cavalrymen are paired off and slowly promenading the deck with
the ladies of their love, Mrs. Amory and I are chatting quietly in the
brilliant saloon, and we are talking of Mars. Her voice is soft and
tremulous; her face is full of trust and peace; her eyes fondly follow
him and the sweet, girlish form that hangs upon his arm as they stroll
forward again after a few loving words with her.

"You have been a good friend to my boy, Mr. Brandon, and you will not
forget him now on the distant frontier. It will be late in the fall
before he can come East."

"So long as that! I had cherished some wild notion that we might have a
double ceremony, when the major and Miss Summers are married."

"No. That would be too precipitate. She is very young yet; so is Frank
for that matter, but he is thoroughly in earnest. It is not that I
anticipate any change of feeling, but it is best for her sake there
should be no undue haste. She will spend the time with Miss Summers
until that wedding comes off, then visit relations in the North during
the summer. Then 'Aunt Mary' will doubtless claim her. You know that as
yet 'Aunt Mary' has had no intimation of what has been going on. Indeed,
but for their sudden orders for the field, I doubt very much if the
young people would have settled their outstanding differences. She is a
lovely child at heart, and Frank has been a truthful and a devoted
son,"--the dimmed eyes are filling now, and a tear starts slowly down
the warm cheek,--"but he is impulsive impetuous, quick, and sensitive,
and, sweet as Kitty is, she has no little coquetry. It will not all be
smiles and sunshine, 'bread and butter and kisses,' Mr. Brandon."

"Perhaps not, dear lady, perhaps not, yet I have no fear. He is true and
brave and stanch as steel, and she is loving. God bless them!"

"Amen."

Late at night. The lights of Donaldsonville lie over our larboard bow.
The broad river glistens in the glorious sheen of silvery light from the
moon aloft. We are gathered in the captain's cabin on the texas and our
glasses are filled. Moët and Chandon sparkles over the brim.

    "My charger is jangling his bridle and chain,
      The moment is nearing, dear love, we must sever,
    But pour out the wine, that thy lover may drain
      A last stirrup-cup to his true maiden ever."

Mr. Brandon has the floor, and eloquence, forensic, judicial, social, is
fled. His idea is to say something stirring and appropriate, but his
heart fails him. He can only stammer, "_Bon voyage_, boys, and safe and
speedy return!" Then he slinks out into the shadow of the huge
paddle-box, a vanquished man.

What a thundering uproar is made by the signal-whistle of these
Mississippi steamers! The boat fairly quivers from stem to stern in
response to the atmospheric disturbance created by the long-drawn
blasts. For two minutes at least, in protracted, resounding, deep
bellowing roar, that immense clarion heralds our approach to drowsy
Donaldsonville. Three long-drawn blasts of equal length, and while they
din upon the drum of the sensitive ear, not another sound can be heard.
I clasp my hands to my head and shudderingly cling to the guards. All
other sensations are deadened. Quick light footsteps approach, but I
hear them not. Two young hearts are painfully beating close behind me,
but I know it not. Clasping arms and quivering lips are bidding fond
farewell so near that, could I but put one hand around the corner of the
narrow passage-way, it would light on a cavalry shoulder-strap (the
right shoulder, for the other is pre-empted), but I see it not. Not
until the deafening uproar ceases with sudden jerk, am I aware of what
is going on almost at my invisible elbow. I hear a long-drawn sibilant
something that is not a whistle, is not a hiss, yet something like; I
hear a plaintive sob; I hear a deep, manly voice, tremulous in its
tenderness. And again the miserable conviction flashes over me that I'm
just where I ought not to be,--am not supposed to be,--and yet cannot
get out without ruining the impressive climax. Forgive me, Kitty!
Forgive me, Frank! For years I've kept your secret. For years you never
suspected that you were overheard. Nearly all your story was jotted down
that very spring, but not this part, not this; and now that the brief
chronicle is wellnigh closed,--now that "this part" is as old a story as
the rest, and as the rest would be utterly incomplete without just such
a finale, can you not find it in your hearts to forgive me for hearing
your sweet and sad and sacred farewell? It was hard, it was bitter
trial; it was so sudden, so brief. Yet my heart went out to you,
gallant and faithful young soldier, when I heard these words, "Five long
months at least, my darling. You _will_ be true to me, as, God knows, I
will be to you?"

And you, Kitty, rampant little rebel Kit, you whom I had seen all
coquetry, all mischief, all tormenting, _was_ it your voice, low,
tremulous, fond as his own, that I heard murmur, "Yes, even if it were
years."

A few moments more and four of us are standing on the wharf-boat, while
the steamer, a brilliant illumination, ploughs and churns her way out
into the broad moonlit stream. Pauline is waving her handkerchief to the
group of three standing by the flag-staff over the stern. Kitty, leaning
on my arm, trembles, but says no word. Tears still cling to the long,
fringing lashes. Lovely are the humid eyes, the soft rounded cheek, the
parted lips. She throws one kiss with her little white hand, and, as the
gallant steamer fades away in the distance, her myriad lights blending
into one meteoric blaze upon the bosom of the waters, the cousins seek
each other's eyes. Pauline bends and kisses the smooth white brow and
bravely drives back her own tears. Kitty leans her bonny head one moment
upon the sheltering arm that is then so lovingly thrown around her,
relieving mine, and lays her little hand upon her shoulder. A new ring
glistens in the moonlight. Tiny crossed sabres stand boldly in relief
upon the gold; beneath them a bursting shell, above them gleams the
polished stone with its sculptured motto. I know it well. 'Tis Amory's
class ring, and his is the proud device, "_Loyauté m'oblige_."


THE END

       *       *       *       *       *


THE COLONEL'S DAUGHTER;

OR, WINNNING HIS SPURS.

BY CAPTAIN CHARLES KING.


"The sketches of life in a cavalry command on the frontier are
exceedingly vivid and interesting; and the element of adventure is
furnished in the graphic and spirited accounts of affairs with the
hostile Apaches. Captain King is to be thanked for an entertaining
contribution to the slender stock of American military novels--a
contribution so good that we hope that he will give us another."--_N. Y.
Tribune._

"The fertility of this field of garrison and reservation life has
already attracted the attention of several writers. We took up the work
of Captain King with the impression that it might be like some of these,
an ephemeral production: we found it instead a charming work, worthy of
achieving a permanent place in literature. We cordially congratulate
Captain King on his accomplished success, for such unquestionably it
is."--_Army and Navy Journal, N. Y._

"There have been few American novels published of late years so
thoroughly readable as 'The Colonel's Daughter,' which, if it be Captain
King's first essay in fiction, is assuredly a most encouraging
production."--_Literary World._

"The volume is a remarkable work of fiction, and will be found
entertaining and well worthy a careful reading."--_Chicago Tribune._

"Not for many a season has there appeared before the public a novel so
thoroughly captivating as 'The Colonel's Daughter.' Its fresh flavor
cannot fail to please the veriest _ennuyé_, while its charming style
would disarm the most fastidious critic. With that delicacy of touch
peculiar to his workmanship, he draws now upon pathos, now upon humor,
but never strains either quality to its utmost capacity, which
distinctly proves that Captain King is a writer of signal ability, whose
novel of 'The Colonel's Daughter' we hope is but the prelude to many
others."--_Milwaukee Sentinel._

"A departure into a new field in novel writing ought always to be
welcomed. 'The Colonel's Daughter' is, strictly speaking, the first
American military novel. It is a good one, and Captain King ought to
follow up the complete success he has made with other stories of army
life on the American frontier. The style of the author is unaffected,
pure in tone, and elevating in moral effect."--_Wisconsin State
Journal._

"Captain King has in this novel prepared for us a clear and interesting
story of army incidents in the West. He is au fait in the art which made
Sir Walter Scott a companion for old and young--the art which brings to
the mind of the reader that sentient power which places us directly into
communion with the imaginary characters filling their parts in a book.
The military incidents are interwoven into the inspiring love episode
that to the pages of this work add animation."--_Times-Democrat, New
Orleans._

"'The Colonel's Daughter; or, Winning His Spurs,' a story of military
life at an Arizona post, written by Captain Charles King, U.S.A., and
published by J. B. Lippincott & Co., Philadelphia, may rightfully claim
to be a good novel. Its characters are strong and clear-cut: its plot
original and well sustained, and the pictures of military life on the
frontier, of Apache character, and of the physical features of Arizona
Territory are realistic and fascinating."--_San Francisco Bulletin._

"The outcome of the novel is just what every reader would wish. It is a
splendid story, full of life and enjoyment, and will doubtless prove a
great favorite."--_Iowa State Register, Des Moines._

       *       *       *       *       *

KITTY'S CONQUEST.

By CAPT. CHARLES KING, U.S.A.,

Author of "The Colonel's Daughter," "Marion's Faith," etc.


"A highly entertaining love story, the scene of which is laid in the
South seven years after the war."--_New York Herald._

"Capt. King has given us another delightful story of American life. The
reputation of the author will by no means suffer through his second
venture. We can heartily commend the story to all lovers of the American
novel."--_Washington Capital._

"Will take rank with its gifted author's vivid romance, 'The Colonel's
Daughter,' and should become as popular. Capt. King writes fluently and
felicitously, and in the novel under review there is not a tiresome
page. Everything is graphic, telling, and interesting. The plot is of
particular excellence."--_Philadelphia Evening Call._

"'Kitty's Conquest,' a charming little story of love and adventure, by
Charles King, U.S.A. The plot is laid in the South during the
reconstruction period following the late war. The book is written in a
most attractive style, and abounds in bright passages. The characters
are drawn in a very pleasing manner, and the plot is handled very
successfully throughout. It is altogether a pleasing addition to the
library of modern fiction."--_Boston Post._

"A bright, original, captivating story. The scene is laid in the South
some twelve years ago. It is full of life from the word 'go!' and
maintains its interest uninterruptedly to the end. The varying fortunes
through which the hero pursues his 'military love-making' are
graphically depicted, and a spice of dangerous adventure makes the story
all the more readable."--_New York School Journal._

"A bright and vivaciously-told story, whose incidents, largely founded
upon fact, occurred some twelve years ago. The scene, opening in
Alabama, is soon transferred to New Orleans, where the interest mainly
centres, revolving round the troublous days when Kellogg and McEnery
were _de facto_ and _de jure_ claimants of supreme power in Louisiana,
when the air was filled with notes of warlike preparation and the tread
of armed men. Though the _heroes_ are, for the most part, United States
officers, there is yet nothing but kindly courtesy and generous
good-will in the tone of the story, and its delineations of Southern
character and life, of Southern scenes, and the circumstances and
conditions of the time. The author is Charles King, himself a United
States soldier, whose story of 'The Colonel's Daughter' has been well
received."--_New Orleans Times-Democrat._


       *       *       *       *       *

"A BRILLIANT PICTURE OF GARRISON LIFE."

MARION'S FAITH.

By Captain CHARLES KING, U.S.A.,

Author of "The Colonel's Daughter," "Kitty's Conquest," etc.


"Captain King has done what the many admirers of his charming first
story, 'The Colonel's Daughter,' hoped he would do,--he has written
another novel of American army life. The present is in some sort a
continuation of the former, many of the characters of the first story
reappearing in the pages of this volume. The scenes of the story are
laid in the frontier country of the West, and fights with the Cheyenne
Indians afford sufficiently stirring incidents. The same bright,
sparkling style and easy manner which rendered 'The Colonel's Daughter'
and 'Kitty's Conquest' so popular and so delightful, characterize the
present volume. It is replete with spirited, interesting, humorous, and
pathetic pictures of soldier life on the frontier, and will be received
with a warm welcome, not only by the large circle of readers of the
author's previous works, but by all who delight in an excellent story
charmingly told."--_Chicago Evening Journal._

"The author of this novel is a gallant soldier, now on the retired list
by reason of wounds received in the line of duty. The favor with which
his books have been received proves that he can write as well as fight.
'Marion's Faith' is a very pleasing story, with a strong flavor of love
and shoulder-straps, and military life, and cannot but charm the
reader."--_National Tribune, Washington, D. C._

"Captain King has caught the true spirit of the American novel, for he
has endowed his work fully and freely with the dash, vigor, breeziness,
bravery, tenderness, and truth which are recognized throughout the world
as our national characteristics. Moreover, he is letting in a flood of
light upon the hidden details of army life in our frontier garrisons and
amid the hills of the Indian country. He is giving the public a bit of
insight into the career of a United States soldier, and abundantly
demonstrating that the Custers and Mileses and Crooks of to-day are not
mere hired men, but soldiers as patriotic, unselfish, and daring as any
of those who went down with the guns in the great civil strife. Captain
King's narrative work is singularly fascinating."--_St. Louis
Republican._

"As descriptions of life at an army post, and of the vicissitudes,
trials, and heroisms of army life on the plains, in what are called
'times of peace,' the two novels of Captain King are worthy of a high
and permanent place in American literature. They will hereafter take
rank with Cooper's novels as distinctively American works of
fiction."--_Army and Navy Register, Washington, D. C._

       *       *       *       *       *

American Novels, No. 1.

THE DESERTER AND FROM THE RANKS.

By Captain Charles King, Author of "The Colonel's Daughter," "Marion's
Faith," etc.


"These two stories have a tone and an atmosphere wholly different from
the commonplace novel of the day, and for that reason alone they are
highly enjoyable."--_Boston Literary World._

"The gallant captain has all a soldier's generous enthusiasm for lovely
women and the delights of a cosey, love-lit home, and his heroines are
all sweet, wholesome women that do honor to his heart and
pen."--_Germantown Telegraph._

"Captain King has a quick and sentient touch, and his writing is that of
one whose belief in mankind is untouched by bitterness. One reads his
tales with the satisfying sense of a cheerful solution of all
difficulties on the final page. It is a relief, indeed, to turn from the
dismal introspection of much of our modern fiction to the fresh
naturalness of such stories as these."--_New York Critic._

"He tells his stories with so much spirit that one's interest is
maintained to the end. The character studies are good and the plot
cleverly developed."--_New York Book-Buyer._

       *       *       *       *       *

American Novels, No. 2.

BRUETON'S BAYOU,

By John Habberton, author of "Helen's Babies," AND MISS DEFARGE,

By Frances Hodgson Burnett, author of "That Lass o' Lowrie's."


"A good book to put in the satchel for a railway trip or ocean
voyage."--_Chicago Current._

"In every way worthy of the best of our American
story-writers."--(Washington) _Public Opinion._

"It is safe to say that no two more charming stories were ever bound in
one cover than these."--_New Orleans Picayune._

"'Brueton's Bayou' is an excellent tale, the motive of which is
apparently to instil into the haughty insularity of the New York mind a
realizing sense of the intellectual possibilities of the South-west. The
smug and self-satisfied young New York business-man, who is detained by
the lameness of his horse at Brueton's Bayou, and there presently meets
his fate in the form of a brilliant and beautiful girl of the region,
has the nonsense taken out of him very thoroughly by his Southern
experiences. 'Miss Defarge' is a strong study of a very resolute and
self-centred young woman, who accomplishes many things by sheer force of
will. But the most interesting and charming figure in it is that of
Elizabeth Dysart, the blonde beauty, a kind of modernized Dudu,--'large
and languishing and lazy,'--but of a sweetness of temper and general
lovableness not to be surpassed."--_New York Tribune._

       *       *       *       *       *

American Novels, No. 4.

A DEMORALIZING MARRIAGE

By Edgar Fawcett, author of "Douglas Duane," "A Gentleman of Leisure,"
etc.


"The plot is cleverly arranged, the action lively, the dialogue sweet,
and the story bright and well sustained."--_New York Tribune._

"Edgar Fawcett still stands at the head of society novelists, as his
latest story testifies. It deals with society life in New York in a
brilliant and realistic manner, and if it is at times satirical, the
author has just grounds for employing this spice."--_Boston Home
Journal._

"Mr. Fawcett is admirably equipped to write of life in New York, the
city of his birth (over forty years ago), of his education, and of his
literary work. The characters that he presents are admirably drawn in
bold, clear lines. He observes society keenly, and some of his bits of
'showing up' are delightfully done."--_Public Opinion_ (Washington, D.
C.).

"It is one of the latest of Mr. Fawcett's brilliant stories of New York
life. One uses the term advisedly. His work has both depth and
resplendence--the two qualities that produce the effect we term
brilliancy, and which, when used in its full significance, signifies a
great deal. Mr. Fawcett's novels reveal the 'veined humanity' of the
complicated, intense life of the highly-organized society of the
nineteenth century."--_Boston Traveller._





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